First, the bad news for the Tri-Cities Fever.
The team is so decimated by injuries in this training camp that it could only go for an hour in practice Friday afternoon in the Toyota Center.
“We only had seven guys that were healthy on offense today, “ said Fever coach Adam Shackleford.
It’s pretty tough to run an offense when you don’t have the minimum eight guys.
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But the rest of it is good news.
The team was in this same situation in camp last year, but it was able to push through because there were 40 players in camp. This year, there are just 30.
“But according to our trainer, Leo Combs, the injuries these guys have are little tweaks that should heal quickly,” said Shackleford.
The season opener is still almost two weeks away — Feb. 28 at the Toyota Center against the Wyoming Cavalry — and the entire game plan for the opener has been installed already.
“We just got 12 practices in,” Shackleford said. “The game plan is in. We have four times more in than we had this time last year.”
Fever linebacker Boris Lee agrees.
“Everything is good,” said Lee. “Defensively, we’ve picked up where we finished last season, winning five of our last six games. We had a brotherhood on this team built up at the end.”
So now, it’s time to back off a bit and let the players heal.
The team will hold a controlled scrimmage, hopefully about 40 plays, at 10:30 a.m. today in the Toyota Center, before letting the players have the rest of the day and all day Sunday off.
The Fever will then lose the use of the Toyota Center until the opener, and Shackleford is not sure what he’ll do about a practice location just yet.
Shackleford singled out rookie defensive back Quinton Richardson for his play this week in practice. Richardson is a University of Washington product.
“(Defensive lineman) Pablo Garcia has been playing well too,” said Shackleford.
Garcia was in camp last year, but he tore his triceps three days into camp and never played for the Fever.
Shackleford also singled out the play of quarterback Dante Warren, and defensive backs Rudell Crim and Lionell Singleton.
Having the veteran Singleton out on the field is like having another assistant coach.
The first-team All-IFL standout in 2012 and 2013 has been working with his defensive backfield teammates all week in practice, offering tips.
“I’m hoping he wants to coach for me next year,” said Shackleford. “I don’t think he wants to be known as the old guy on the team (at age 28). But he’s just a good, talented guy.”
Notes: Shackleford is expecting veteran defensive back Dustin Bell and John Henderson, a 6-2, 315-pound defensive lineman, to report to the team next Wednesday. Henderson played college ball at Southern Mississippi and was a member of the St. Louis Rams’ practice squad in 2012. The only other current player on the Fever roster to spend time on an NFL practice squad is running back Jay Finley. The Baylor standout has spent time on the Bengals and Seahawks practice squads. ... Shackleford said he and assistant coach Cleveland Pratt will be at the Spokane Shock and Portland Thunder practices on the 27th to talk to players who get cut that day. ... The Fever released offensive lineman Steve Dieckhaus on Thursday. ... Cedar Rapids signed veteran DB Travonti Johnson. ... The IFL regular season opens next Friday with three games: Cedar Rapids at Texas, Nebraska at Sioux Falls, and Green Bay at expansion Bemidji.