KENNEWICK -- Leon Wright-Jackson isn't ready to give football up yet.
"Football is in my blood," he said. "You can't just stop it. My wife, she pushed me to do this. She saw me on Sundays watching football in front of the TV. I'd be sweating."
So the 2005 Pasco High School graduate signed with the Tri-Cities Fever on Thursday night after trying out for the team last Saturday.
Getting ready to go to his first Fever practice Friday morning, he was excited.
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Wright-Jackson played one season at the University of Nebraska before transferring to Hawaii, where he was a running back for three seasons, finishing up in 2010.
Since then, he had not caught on anywhere.
"I've been working out," he said. "The Texans and the Jaguars both called me. They got all of my information, and I went down to Los Angeles and worked out with a bunch of guys at the Home Depot Center. I got my workouts in ... and then the lockout happened."
By the time the NFL lockout ended last summer, NFL teams had little time to bring in free agents.
So with no spring minicamps or team workouts, a lot of young players just out of college didn't get the chance they normally would.
Fever coach Adam Shackleford could not believe his luck when he found out Wright-Jackson lived in the Tri-Cities.
"He was a guy two years ago I tried to find, but couldn't," Shackleford said. "I had no idea he was from here. He came out to the tryout the other night, and he looks good. He's very fast. A guy that good, and you already have him in town? You sign him."
Wright-Jackson knows there will be a learning curve for indoor football.
"But then, football is football," he said. "The coaches have told me about some of the rules. It's definitely a fast-paced game."
-- Shackleford had to pull the reins back on the team this week after players started getting banged up during practice.
"We backed off because we've been going two-a-days," he said. "This is a very good group of guys, and they're a different caliber of professional than last year."
That's mainly because there are fewer teams this year -- 16 compared with 22 in 2011. Also, each roster will carry 25 players, five fewer than last season.
"So there are a lot less jobs out there," Shackleford said.
-- Fever defensive coordinator Ryan Lingenfelder said the team has a long way to go before next weekend's season opener. But he likes what he has seen so far.
"Our defensive line and linebackers are just so physical," he said. "They're fast and athletic. On the back end, we've got a veteran in Lionell Singleton and then two rookies who are coming along. As a whole, the learning curve is going well."
-- Fever special teams coordinator Cleveland Pratt said new kicker Michael Taylor has been impressive.
"He's found his rhythm," Pratt said. "Last year's kicker, Gary Cismesia, and Brett Jaekle from the year before had to make the adjustments on PATs in the indoor game."
Taylor, he said, has adjusted faster.
"He knows how to drive the ball," Pratt added. "Everything on the kickoffs are in the end zone. Field goals for him are no problem."
As for kickoff returns, "right now, I've got to go with the vets," Pratt said. "Probably Steven Whitehead first, followed by Dennis Kennedy next."
Kennedy didn't return many kickoffs last season, if any. But Pratt said it makes sense.
"It's all about the ball-carrying and hanging onto the ball in kickoffs," he said. "Dennis has the vision and the toughness."
Singleton is third in line to return kicks.
-- The team will lift weights today before Shackleford and his staff make the final cuts Sunday. The players have Sunday off, then will prepare Monday for next Saturday's season opener against the Everett Raptors at 7:05 p.m. at the Toyota Center.