Tri-Cities Fever

Fever, Shackleford open camp today

KENNEWICK -- Adam Shackleford and his Tri-Cities Fever coaching staff have spent the past week driving around the Northwest to pick up football players.

"Players are literally coming in here in shuttles three or four at a time," Fever owner Teri Carr said.

For Shackleford, interviewed on the phone Friday while driving to Spokane to pick up more players from the airport, the wait to get the 2011 Indoor Football League season started is almost over.

"I am excited," Shackleford said. "We worked hard in recruiting. They're not just a name on paper anymore. We've got good character guys, and the guys seem to get along."

Training camp begins today at Toyota Center with 45 players expected to participate in drills.

There will be a season ticketholder party at 2 p.m., with the players in attendance to sign autographs.

After the team meal, players will start taping up at 6 p.m. and then hit the arena floor for three hours.

In fact, with the Tri-City Americans on the road this week, the Fever gets to work out at Toyota Center today through Thursday.

"It's a blessing," Shackleford said. "We're gonna take advantage of every second we can and go for two-a-days."

The team will play the Wenatchee Venom in an exhibition game at 6:05 p.m. Thursday at Toyota Center.

"We're going to use that game as an evaluation tool," Shackleford said. "It'll be a live dress rehearsal."

As far as his take on the team, he's positive.

"I think our big men up front as a group, we're ahead of schedule from where we were last year," he said. "And I like our athleticism at our skill positions."

Although there are no starters at this point, Shackleford has some returning players -- OL Ken Ackerman, OL Jason Donnal, WR Joey Hew Len, QB Houston Lillard, LB Cyrus Mulitalo, DL Fred Poole and DB Lionell Singleton.

-- The last player signed by the Fever was kicker Gary Cismesia. He's a former all-ACC kicker at Florida State and holds the conference record for most field goals in a season and the longest field goal in ACC history at 60 yards.

-- Keep an eye on Fever signee Dennis Rogan, a defensive back out of the University of Tennessee who signed Feb. 2.

Rogan holds the school's kickoff return yardage record previously held by Willie Gault. Rogan left school early and entered the 2010 NFL Draft but wasn't selected. He did sign a free-agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

-- The Fever's season opener will be Feb. 26 at home against the expansion Arizona Adrenaline.

The IFL opener is next Saturday, Feb. 19, when the Chicago Slaughter visits the LaCrosse Spartans.

-- Here's the rest of this week's practice schedule, all at Toyota Center: Monday, practices at 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.; Tuesday, practices at 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.; Wednesday, practices at 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

-- Keith Evans is the new head coach for the Kent Predators. Evans was a former Fever assistant when the team was in the af2.