Those five No. 1 draft choices in the New England defensive backfield need only hear Baltimore quarterback Bert Jones' comments on the relative merits of their intelligence and that of ducks to give them incentive for Sunday's game.

Outdoorsman Jones joked the other day after practice that wild ducks "are trickier than defensive backs, and the defensive backs don't see me as often. By the end of the hunting season, the ducks have heard every kind of call, from Louisiana to Wisconsin. That's why I'm growing a beard -- to fool them."

He might have been buoyed by the rehabilitation of his throwing arm, which has not even registered a twinge of pain, or merely glorying in his passion for the outdoor sport available around the Chesapeake Bay.

"I don't have much time between my work, my family, hunting, fishing and cooking," he said. "All I want in my work is to win."

The Colts are 4-2, just a game behind the 5-1 Partiots and Bills after ending the latter's unbeaten record Sunday in Buffalo. Baltimore is 4-0 against teams in the Eastern Division of the American Conference, and three of those victories were achieved on the road.

Bertram Hays Jones doesn't smoke and he wouldn't be troubled about his wind, anyway, because he runs his legs off with his wife Danni, a former gymnast. He is not much for drink, either, except as a fancier of wines to go with his culinary concoctions.

He says it's easier to adjust to the absence from his native Ruston, La., because "the Chesapeake, the Eastern Shore, and the hills around Westminster are as pretty as any place in the world."

He was questioned about how much sport there is in taking a gun to a bird.

"I eat what I shoot," he said in defense, "I cook dinner about three times a week. I have my own recipes for preparing duck and bass. I roast a leg of lamb at least once a week."

"I serve duck rare, blood red. Most people cook it too long and it gets dry and tough," Jones said. "I bake bass till it's dry, then stuff it with shrimp and crabmeat sauteed in margarine; I use a lot of garlic."

Margarine instead of the butter with gourment Louisiana cuisine?

"Yes, margarine has less cholesterol;for my wife, not me."

Jones now weighs 209, but he looks as "hippy" as a lineman and has the musculature in his upper body to match alineman's.

"That's just the big, lineman-type shoulder pads I wear now to protect my throwing shoulder, the one that was injured. Seriously, I've gotten bigger in the upper body from the weightlifting propram I underwent in recovering from my injury."

Jones has not been sacked in the last three games. Colt blockers have allowed only seven sacks in six games, a statistic matched by Dallas. Cleveland has allowed for sacks and Los Angeles seven.

Such stats could give Jones a feeling that he has arranged "sack insurance."

"Well, I do have a great offensive line, and they're my friends. It was through Elmer Collett (former guard) and Robert Pratt (guard) that I came to appreciate wines to go with my cooking. Collett knew California wines. Pratt knows them as a member of a fashionable Southern family in Richmond.

"I don't pretend to be a connoisseur.I drink only what I like, no matter what the experts say. I prefer a Chardonnay."

Coach Milk McCormack was as euphoric after practice as if he had been knocking back a few bottles. "Why shouldn't I be cheerful after upsetting Buffalo," he said, "and having a quarterback like Bert? I'm not programmed to start worrying for another half-hour.

"I'd compare him with Kilmer -- in heart and Billy's ability to lead. Sonny Jurgensen is the best thrower I ever saw. Bert is perhaps a better thrower, has poise on the field, and ranks with Otto Graham in knowing how to run a team. Our team recognizes Bert as a great talent and rallies around him."

All of which figures to become required reading on the bulletin board in the Patriot locker room.