Wright's long return something to flip over


Baltimore rookie Chris Wright saw daylight. The members of San Antonio's special teams saw the back of his jersey.

Judging by Wright's first two games, that's a vantage point would-be tacklers better get used to.

Last week, he returned a punt 55 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown that put Baltimore ahead of B.C. 34-30. The Lions came back to win, 37-34.

This time, there would be another long return, but no crushing defeat. Wright fielded a punt by San Antonio's Todd Jordan late in the second quarter, broke a couple of tackles and raced 69 yards for a touchdown, giving the Stallions a 27-10 lead in a game they won, 50-24.

"We were very patient on special teams tonight," he said. "Every time they kicked to me, we were one block away."

Wright was a busy man last night, returning six punts for 96 yards and four kickoffs for 106. But he had enough energy to celebrate his touchdown with a cartwheel and back flip, landing just beyond the back line of the end zone.

What better way to conclude the longest punt return in team history? "I couldn't do it in college because you'd get an unsportsmanlike call," he said. "I hoped I'd make it to the professional level so I could do it."

Of his scoring run, Wright said: "I saw a crease. I read my players' blocks and hit the crease. A guy grabbed me and I made him get off me, then I saw the crease on the outside and hit it again. Then, it was footwork after that."

Wright, 5 feet 8, 175 pounds, attended Georgia Southern, which also produced quarterback Tracy Ham. He left as the school's all-time leader in kick return yardage with 1,569, and was signed by Baltimore in April as a free agent.

"He played his way on our football team," said coach Don Matthews. "He is so special on his returns, and so quick. That gives us the one dimension we didn't have last year."


Kicker Carlos Huerta still was fuming over what he considered a poor showing in his regular-season debut with Baltimore -- two missed field goals in four tries against B.C.

He made up for it last night, setting a regular-season franchise record with a 51-yard field goal, and tying another mark with five field goals. He also made five converts in what was a perfect night for the former University of Miami and Las Vegas Posse standout.

"I didn't have much confidence after that game," he said, 'but you have to deal with the bad along with the good."

Smith among the crowd

When you are the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, you can afford to be fashionably late.

Joe Smith, the former Maryland player, was supposed to perform the coin toss last night. Instead, Smith and former Wake Forest star Randolph Childress didn't show until near the end of the first quarter.

"Mike Anderson [a partner of Len Elmore, who represents Smith and Childress] got pulled over on the freeway," Smith said. "We were trying to make it here and we got pulled over."

Childress, who was driving in a separate car with Smith behind Anderson, said: "We tried to get here too fast. I didn't think we were going that fast. We didn't get a ticket, but we came off an exit too fast."

This isn't the first time Smith has been late to make an appearance.

"I was supposed to throw it out [at an Orioles game] but I got there a little late, too," Smith said.

As far as the CFL goes, Smith is learning the game.

"Actually, this is my first game," Smith said. 'I don't even know the rules. Somebody just explained the rules to me. I really don't get to see much football live. It seems very exciting. The crowd is really into it."

Another former Maryland star, Walt Williams of the Sacramento

Kings, joined Smith and Childress at the game.

No-name to new name

Some of Baltimore's players shrugged with indifference. Some sounded happy about the change. But everyone pretty much agreed that the team's new nickname -- Stallions -- is a huge improvement over the Baltimore Football Club.

"It's great to have a name. Baltimore Football Club sounded like a rugby team," guard John Earle said. "Now, we have our own identity, along with the horse logo, which is good. Now, I can say I play for the Stallions. That sounds so much better."

As for veteran offensive tackle Shar Pourdanesh, the new name carries little weight one way or the other.

"It doesn't mean a thing to me," Pourdanesh said. "It doesn't change any aspect of the game for me. I still have to go out there and block. Maybe after the season, I'll reflect on the name change."

Happy with turnout

Speros was all smiles last night, partly because of some encouraging attendance figures.

A crowd of 31,016 showed up for the home opener, still well below last year's average of 37,348 and a bit shy of the 1994 regular season low of 31,172. But, considering that by the end of Monday barely 20,000 tickets had been sold, Speros was happy.

"We sold about 4,000 tickets during the week, and we expected a big walk-up crowd tonight. Since we opened at 8:30, we were averaging between 100 and 150 tickets per hour," Speros said. "I think coming up with the new name sparked people up a little bit, and with this weather, you can't pick a better night for football."

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