KENNEWICK -- Just because you are a returning veteran for the Tri-Cities Fever, that doesn't mean you are guaranteed a starting position.
"The only thing a veteran on this football team is guaranteed is their jersey number from last year," Fever coach Adam Shackleford said. "We bring in guys to battle for spots every year. That's the nature of the beast."
And there should be some good battles for some spots this coming week.
"The receivers should be a good battle," Shackleford said. "We've got an extremely talented group at receiver."
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Steven Whitehead is in that group.
Last season, the veteran caught 82 passes for 965 yards and 18 touchdowns. But he knows that's not a guarantee to make the team.
"I'm anxious to see the battles between the defensive backs and the receivers," Whitehead said before a weightlifting session Friday.
Last season, Joey Hew Len was the team's go-to receiver for possession yardage, while Whitehead was the intermediate threat, and Tre Young was the deep threat.
Both Hew Len and Young now are with Arena Football League teams, while Whitehead had not planned on still playing football.
But he made the Tri-Cities his offseason home, started a personal training business called Elite Ambitions, and decided he still wanted to play football.
Whitehead isn't the only one interested in the receivers-DBs battle.
So is defensive coordinator Ryan Lingenfelder.
"The DBs and receivers are obviously the life blood in this league," said Lingenfelder. "Receivers create the touchdowns, and DBs prevent them."
Lingenfelder's defensive unit returns some experience -- Malcom Bennett and Jake Killeen on the line, Joe Thornton and Brandon Wilson at linebacker, and Lionell Singleton in the defensive backfield.
"It's their job to lose," said Lingenfelder. "I'm looking for guys willing to be coached, do what's asked of them and are in shape."
And special teams coach Cleveland Pratt wants to see what the Fever have on the lines.
"I'm kind of excited to see the offensive line and defensive line go after each other," Pratt said. "Those are our needs. We need to protect our quarterback and go after their quarterback."
Pratt is right when he says the development of the offensive line will be key in camp, since there are no returning veterans this season.
"But we expect that transition," Pratt said. "We know there is a huge revolving door every year."
Which is why no one is safe.
Which brings us to quarterback. Houston Lillard returns after his breakout 2011 season. He will be one of three QBs in camp.
"We've got some extremely talented rookie quarterbacks in camp," Shackleford said.
Whatever happens, players will get a fair shake from the coaching staff, and they'll get the truth.
"(Shackleford) is the most honest coach you can find," Whitehead said. "He'll tell you what you need to do to get better. But his No. 1 priority is to help you move up in the game. That's important, because that's the players' No. 1 priority, too."
Notes: The Fever have two practices today in the Toyota Center, one at 9 a.m. and one at 4 p.m. The team also will practice at 9 a.m. Monday at Toyota Center. ... Shackleford said early in the week that he was scheduled to drive to the Spokane Airport just once to pick up incoming players. But he actually did it three times. "That's because," he said, "I am the nicest head coach in the IFL."