Five days after Baltimore's CFL team lost a veteran receiver to injury, it lost a promising rookie to insubordination.
Shannon Culver, a 24-year-old wide-out, walked off the practice field at Towson State yesterday after being told he would have to compete for his spot on the active roster this week.
Coach Don Matthews said Culver would be suspended, although a final determination on Culver's status is expected today.
"Skinny didn't enjoy what was going on and felt he wanted to go home," Matthews said, referring to Culver by his nickname.
Baltimore was looking for help at receiver after slotback B. K. Williams ruptured his right Achilles' tendon in warm-ups for Thursday's Canadian Football League opener in Toronto.
That opened the door for Eddie Britton, a 5-foot-9 burner who spent the past two years with the Calgary Stampeders. Britton was impressive in his first practice Monday. By yesterday, Matthews decided not only to activate him but also to start him at wide-out ahead of Joe Washington and Culver in Saturday's home opener against Calgary.
That was the source of Culver's dissatisfaction. Matthews told Culver before yesterday's practice that he would have to compete with Washington for the backup position. The third receiver would then be released and placed on the practice roster.
Culver went out to practice, spoke briefly to Matthews and left.
"He came over to me and told me he wasn't happy with things," Matthews said. "I said: 'Skinny, you've got two choices. Either go practice or go home.' So he decided to go home.
"He said, 'I want you to release me.' I said, 'No, if you walk out, I suspend you.' He said, 'OK, suspend me.' "
Culver didn't leave campus until after practice, when he said goodbye to several players.
He said he had a poor practice on Monday when he was switched from one wide-out spot to the other, then had trouble accepting his new designation.
"I lost my temper," he said. "And I lost my career. This is what I wanted to be my career. . . . How am I going to send money home to my girl and kids?"
Culver, unmarried, said he has a girlfriend in Los Angeles with one child and another on the way.
Matthews said Jim Guarantano would take Williams' place on the roster this week, and Britton would replace Culver.
The addition of Britton, 26, to the lineup means that three of the four starting receivers Saturday opened training camp with other CFL teams -- Chris Armstrong in Las Vegas, Walter Wilson in Winnipeg and Britton in Calgary.
"I felt I should have been starting in Calgary," Britton said. "They wanted to go with a guy [Brian Wiggins] they had there last year. I outplayed him in preseason and all during camp."
Britton moved to Columbia last fall with his wife, Maria, a Maryland native. When Calgary cut him, he immediately called Matthews about a job. Starting with last Thursday's opener, the Baltimore receiving corps has been undergoing major revision.
Britton had another good practice yesterday with several leaping catches. "I'll get it down," quarterback Tracy Ham assured him at one point in the workout.
"I like to go after the ball," Britton said. "When it's in flight, I can block everything out and have total concentration."
Britton, a Chicago native, played collegiately at Central State in Ohio. He signed with the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent in 1991. He played with the Birmingham Fire in the World League in 1992 and signed with Calgary that fall. Last season he played two games and had one catch for 27 yards.
Citing his 4.3 speed in the 40, Matthews said he would use him on field-goal returns this week. Until yesterday, that was Culver's job. He had a 91-yard return in last week's 28-20 win over Toronto.
Matthews said he originally put Britton on field-goal returns to get fresh legs into the game.
"At that time, I thought Skinny would be playing more," Matthews said. "As my return guy, I'd rather have someone not playing every down because he would have fresh legs that way."