The Baltimore Football Club got down to the CFL's 37-man roster limit with its final cuts yesterday, and the team will begin the regular season without two defensive veterans who helped Baltimore reach the Grey Cup game last year.
Free safety Michael Brooks and middle linebacker Malcolm Goodwin were the most notable of 10 players cut.
Brooks, an all-Eastern Division safety who started every game in 1994 and was fourth on the team with 47 tackles, lost his job to Lester Smith, last year's backup free safety. Goodwin, the twin brother of linebacker Matt Goodwin, started nine games last season and was fourth on the team in special-teams tackles with 13.
"This is a tough day, a very difficult time," coach Don Matthews said. "There were people right on the cutting edge, and it came down to some minute things on why we chose one over another. Coaches can't help but get attached to these guys, and it's tougher with guys who have been with us for a year."
"I'm a little surprised, a little disappointed, especially after I was a starter last year," said Malcolm Goodwin, whose position has been taken by former rush end O. J. Brigance. "But it's part of the business, I guess. If you're realistic about the profession you're in, you know this can happen, and you accept it when it does."
Baltimore also cut veteran defensive back James Bullock -- selected in April's Las Vegas Posse dispersal draft -- along with seven rookies. The rookies included defensive backs Jamie Mendez and Mike Jones (brother of backup quarterback Shawn Jones), offensive lineman Marc Borrelli, defensive tackle Jeff Cooke, fullback/slotback William Pollard and wide receivers Chris Beatty and Jeff Johnson.
Pollard had a strong training camp, but could not hold off veteran Reggie Perry, who played well in both of Baltimore's exhibition victories and won a starting job at slotback. Beatty and Johnson became expendable after receivers Mark Orlando (Towson State) and Tim McNair (Alcorn State and brother of quarterback Steve) were signed last week.
Orlando and McNair were added to Baltimore's practice roster yesterday.
Nine rookies made the team, evidence of a training camp that produced its share of good position battles. Offensive linemen Mike Withycombe and Robert Davis, running back Chris Wright, wide receiver Shannon Culver, quarterback Dan Crowley (Towson State), defensive back Courtney Griffin, linebacker Jason Bryant, defensive end Jock Jones and defensive tackle Demetrious Maxie are first-year CFL players who survived the final cut.
Withycombe, Culver and Jones won starting jobs. Withycombe, 30, who has played for three NFL teams and for Matthews at Orlando in the World League in 1991, is the new left guard. Culver beat out the ailing Walter Wilson (shoulder) at one wide receiver position after catching six passes for 69 yards and scoring a touchdown in Saturday's 37-0 victory over the Birmingham Barracudas.
"It feels really good to play again. It's rejuvenating, and it's the first time I've ever been the oldest guy on the line," Withycombe said.
Jones, 27, played four NFL seasons in Cleveland and Arizona and beat out rookie Grant Carter for the strong-side defensive end spot. Carter, who pulled a hamstring early in the Birmingham game, was added to the practice roster.
"He [Carter] would have made the team, had he been healthy. But he'll make it when he gets healthy," Matthews said. "He tried to play through it [the pain], and he probably made a mistake by doing it."
Versatility was the key ingredient for the rookies who made the grade.
Griffin can play every secondary position. Maxie will back up nose tackle Jearld Baylis and defensive tackle Robert Presbury. Davis, the backup center behind veteran Nick Subis, made the squad on his long-snapping ability. Wright's ability to run the ball, return kicks and cover on special teams kept him around.
NOTES: Rookies Kareem Bacon (DB), John James (OL) and Maurice Gravely (LB), the second cousin of veteran LB Tracey Gravely, also were added to the practice roster. . . . Borrelli was claimed by Memphis yesterday. . . . In the first quarter against Birmingham, Walter Wilson injured his shoulder and fullback Peter Tuipulotu pulled a hamstring. They could be placed on the two-man injured reserve list by Thursday, the day before the season opener at British Columbia. . . . Veteran WR Joe Washington (hamstring) has been placed on the waived-injured list. . . . OG Keith Ballard, on the suspended list, could be added to the practice roster if he passes his physical this week.
The BFC's 37-man roster (39 listed, with two to be put on injured list):
QB: Tracy Ham, Shawn Jones, Dan Crowley
RB: Mike Pringle, Chris Wright
FB: Peter Tuipulotu, Robert Drummond
WR: Shannon Culver, Walter Wilson, Robert Clark
SB: Chris Armstrong, Reggie Perry, Mike Alexander
OL: Nick Subis, Mike Withycombe, John Earle, Guy Earle, Robert Davis, Neal Fort, Shar Pourdanesh