A well-timed week off hopefully will pay dividends for the Tri-Cities Fever tonight when it opens the Indoor Football League playoffs against the Colorado Ice at Toyota Center.
With injuries to key personnel like guard Ryan Tolar (staph infection), running back Dennis Kennedy (knee) defensive lineman Jake Killeen (knee) and defensive back Lionell Singleton (back), the Fever would not have been at full strength had there been a game on the schedule.
“The break came at a great time,” Fever coach Adam Shackleford said. “Those guys were hurting. We didn’t just rest them to rest them. That week off was huge.”
Tolar, a Pasco High graduate, takes up a lot of real estate on the offensive line with his 6-foot-4, 320-pound frame. He missed part of the Fever’s home game June 9 against Wyoming with a staph infection on his arm.
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“Ryan is our only game-time decision,” Shackleford said. “He has an appointment (today) and we hope that appointment goes well and we can get him back. If he can’t play, we will miss his presence. Everyone else should be available.”
If Tolar is unable to play, Shackleford has a backup plan. The Fever signed lineman Chris Rutledge (6-5, 311) on Tuesday. Rutledge played at the University of Miami and spent time with the Baltimore Ravens.
The Fever finished the regular season with a 12-2 record and won the Intense Conference. The Ice (8-6), which comes into the matchup on a two-game slide, has given Tri-Cities fits both times they played this season.
Tri-Cities beat Colorado 64-50 in Kennewick, and 52-49 in overtime on the road.
The teams met in the playoffs last year, with the Fever eking out a 45-42 second-round victory at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colo. This time, the Fever has home-field advantage.
“Colorado is a great football team,” Shackleford said. “They are well coached. Besides Sioux Falls, they are the best team we have played all year. It has been a battle the last couple of years with these guys.”
The Ice, which also was idle last week, has been busy trying to keep pace with the Fever, signing four players with some NFL experience — DB Reggie Sullivan, DT Tommie Duhart, WR Augustine Agyei, and QB-WR Lorne Sam.
“I don’t think we have been in a situation where we concern ourselves with the other team’s roster,” Shackleford said. “We can’t change it. I don’t know if they will play. We just concern ourselves with what we have and what we do. It should be a great game.”