Linebacker Malcolm Goodwin says his neck has never felt better, which is a good sign for him and a far cry from how he felt last fall.
Goodwin's rookie season ended in scary fashion in Sacramento late last season, when he went down during a goal-line stand. He was diagnosed with a ruptured disk between his fifth and sixth vertebrae, underwent surgery to repair it, missed the Baltimore Football Club's playoff run and could not begin working out again until three months ago.
Two weeks after reporting to training camp with the rest of the veterans, Goodwin is free of pain and loving it.
"I've tested it [neck] on a couple of hits and it feels great. No pain, no stingers," said Goodwin, who started seven games at middle linebacker and made 29 tackles, while contributing 13 special-teams tackles, fourth on the team.
"The doctors were more scared than me [about coming back]," he added. "You can't have fear in this game. You're nuts to play football, anyway. When you're on a team of this caliber -- we've got 15 guys who are all-CFL candidates -- it really challenges you to be at your best at all times. That's why I can't worry about my injuries."
Said coach Don Matthews: "If it was going to be a problem, it would have surfaced by now. We just let Malcolm go at his pace, and he has shown no hesitation in practice. We don't even make an issue of it." Rookie Jeff Cooke, who is battling veteran defensive tackle Robert Presbury, has not missed a practice since surprising the Baltimore coaching staff last weekend with an announcement that he was leaving camp. After talking with defensive line coach Marty Long and assistant general manager Jim Popp, Cooke changed his mind and is glad he did.
"I'm a religious person. I had a mental and spiritual confrontation. I've learned I can deal with a lot of stresses, and they enlightened me on how to deal with them," said Cooke, a 6-foot-1, 270-pounder out of East Carolina who was cut from the New York Jets' camp last year.
"There's nothing wrong with the program or the organization here. If I had left, I wouldn't have been using my talents to the best of my ability. I'm staying until I see the outcome. I'm really looking forward to the game [Saturday night's exhibition opener]."
Baylis, Ham to miss exhibition
Matthews said nose tackle Jearld Baylis and quarterback Tracy Ham will not play Saturday (7:30 p.m.) against Ottawa at Memorial Stadium. Rookie quarterback Dan Crowley will play the first quarter, followed by Len Williams in the second. Veteran Shawn Jones, the most improved passer in camp over the past few days, will play the second half.
Baylis, who is having a fine camp, is coming back from off-season knee surgery.
"We'd rather he rest the knee. There's not a lot we're going to learn about Jearld after practice and one exhibition," Matthews of Baylis, a nine-year CFL veteran.
Ham and Baylis will play in the June 24 exhibition game against Birmingham at Miami's Orange Bowl.
Slot back Walter Wilson missed yesterday's practices with a groin pull he suffered when he fell on the wet Towson State field Monday. He might not practice the rest of the week. . . . Linebacker Greg Tucker sat out yesterday's practices with shin splints. . . . Scott Miller, the lone veteran who didn't make the team's first cut last week, has signed with the Charlotte Rage of the Arena League. . . . Ticket sales for Saturday's game have reached 20,000.