Joe Thomas has brightened the Goucher College campus by his absence, if a visitor takes the word of Baltimore Colts camp followers.
The departed general manager could usually be found patrolling the grounds of the women's lbieral arts institution, searching out spies whom, he thought, could gain something from the basic orientation being imparted to many a rookie who would not survive the first scrimmage. Thomas has taken up residence as kingmaker in San Francisco.
Still, all in no idyllic for coach Ted Marchibroda in these tranquil surroundings.
Sunday, their first day of practice, Marchibroda's No. 2 draft pick, defensive end Mike Ozdowski of the University of Virginia, suffered torn cartilage on the outside of his left knee and underwent surgery. Immediately, the coach's judgment in drafting Ozdowski was questioned, the rookie had undergone surgery for a tear on the inside of the same knee last year."
Tuesday wide receiver, Randy Burke, No. 1 draft choice from Kentucky, suffered a shoulder separation while making a diving catch and he faces an operation.
It is at those two positions that the Colts are looking for depth.
Stiff upper lip and all that, Marchibroda was thankful for a considerable blessing, the presence of a bona fide cornerback, Norm Thompson.
"We now have the best cornerbacks since I've been here," Marchibroda said, "with Thompson and with Nelson Munsey looking so good coming off his knee injury. And we'll have good backups in Lloyd Mumphord and Doug Nettles."
The Colts had a noticeably unballanced defense last year. Baltimore led the American Football Conference with 56 quarterback sacks, yet the club finished 15th in total defense in the league and 22d against the pass.
The Colts led the league in scoring last season behind quarterback Bert Jones and Marchibroda recalls, "A year ago, I said the offensive improvement could come with a good season from (wide receiver) Roger Carr, and that's what happened.
"I'm saying the same thing this year about eh defense and people like cornerback Norm Thompson."
Thompson, 32, after six seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, played out his options to become a free agent, considered a couple of other offers but settled on playing for the Colts.
He received about a 35 per cent raise from what he was earning with the Cardinals. His salary at Baltimore is something under $65,000 because if the Colts had offered him more, they would have had to compensate the Cardinals with more than the No. 3 draft choice they did.
That puts Thompson up there with the good ones at his position. Defensive back George Atkinson of the Oakland Raiders has testified in his suit against coach Chuck Noll of the Pittsburgh Steelers that (Atkinson) earns $70,000 annually.
"The new union contract killed me," Thompson said. "George Allen would have given a No. 1 and a No. 2 draft choice for me, but he didn't have them at this time, as required.
"I had offers from other teams, but I want to be with a playoff team like Baltimore. I didn't want to be on the field with some other defense for 45 or 50 minutes a game.
"I got no respect from the Cardinals with the amount of money they offered me and no publicity. Negotiating with them became a bore. They mentioned that they don't draw well enough to pay what I wanted. That should not be my problem.
"My position is the toughest of all; one mistake and the other team scores a touchdown. I had one touchdown scored against me, by John Gilliam (then of Minnesota), in 1974, and one by Haroid Jackson (Los Angeles) in 1975.
"Sure, I gave up some short gains, I led the team in interceptions those two years. The other cornerback, Roger Wehrli, a good friend of mone, and I carried the load on defense. Other teams respected me. They would tell me after a game that I was the reason they didn't throw on my side much.
"I got along with the coaches, particularly our defensive coordinator, Ray Willsey.I had my trouble upstairs, with Joe Sullivan (director of operations). He wouldn't give me two-thirds of what I wanted."