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Wilson tones it down in quest to retain job


The difference a year makes for Walter Wilson is in volume.

Gone, for the most part, are the boasts that punctuated his first training camp with Baltimore's Canadian Football League team.

Conspicuously absent is his running commentary during practice.

Even his exaggerated swagger is toned down a notch.

"I haven't opened my mouth all camp," the veteran wide receiver said after yesterday's workout at Towson State. "I'm trying to get the best out of myself. I've quieted down. . . . I just go out and play."

There is good reason for the change in demeanor.

Wilson, 29, and a native of Baltimore, is locked in a battle with rookie Shannon Culver, 25, for a starting receiver job.

It is a battle that will be decided Saturday night in Miami when the Baltimore Football Club faces the Birmingham Barracudas in its second and final preseason game.

"Each of them will get 30 minutes," coach Don Matthews said, "and the game decides it."

It will be one of several roster subplots in the countdown to final cuts on Sunday.

Wilson, who played one season with the San Diego Chargers in the NFL, was a big contributor a year ago with 50 catches for 900 yards and four touchdowns.

Both Wilson, from Southern High, and Culver have had good camps. A groin injury kept Wilson out of last week's exhibition game in which Culver had one catch for 35 yards.

"Culver runs hard every play," Matthews said. "We're looking for improvement in that area."

Wilson, nevertheless, said he feels he's in good position to keep the job.

"I don't see myself fighting for a job," he said. "I've improved, I've got a year under my belt. I can catch the football and run. I've had an excellent camp."

Saturday night, he'll find out if it was good enough.

With an eye on the 37-man roster, here are some other position battles to watch for:

* Slotback: Reggie Perry and Mike Alexander are competing for the starting job opposite All-Eastern slot Chris Armstrong.

* Offensive line: NFL veteran Mike Withycombe is threatening to take incumbent Guy Earle's job.

* Defensive line: Grant Carter, Jock Jones and Greg Tucker are competing for one, and possibly two spots, at strong-side rush end. At tackle, incumbent Robert Presbury is trying to hold off Demetrious Maxie and Jeff Cooke.

* Linebacker: Four men -- veterans Alvin Walton and Malcolm Goodwin and rookies Maurice Gravely and Jason Bryant -- are competing for one or two backup jobs. Gravely gets his shot at strong-side linebacker because second-cousin Tracey Gravely moves to halfback this week in place of injured Charles Anthony (abdominal strain). "We're looking for versatility and special-teams performance," Matthews said.

* Secondary: Courtney Griffin, another NFL veteran, may start in place of cornerback Karl Anthony (calf) with a chance to solidify his grip on the backup job. Lester Smith, challenging All-East safety Michael Brooks, will start against Birmingham, and Matthews will look at Jaime Mendez as the backup.

Matthews said this summer's cuts are tougher than when he assembled last year's team.

"The players usually separate themselves by now and they haven't," he said. "That's a good sign, not a bad one. It's always difficult to cut a guy that's good enough to play."

NOTES: Baltimore is bringing back cornerback Kareem Bacon (Clark-Atlanta), who was cut last week. Bacon is expected to return to practice today and should play Saturday. . . . The team flies to Miami tomorrow afternoon.


Exhibition opponent: Birmingham Barracudas

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Orange Bowl, Miami

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WJFK (1300 AM), WGRX (100.7 FM)

Last week: The BFC defeated the Ottawa Rough Riders, 45-11, at Memorial Stadium.

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