With a new football season comes the inevitable — change.
Different players. A different location for training camp. Different routines. That’s what the Locomotives can look forward to when their fall training camp begins today at Sam Boyd Stadium.
But there’s one holdover from last year that coach Jim Fassel wants to see from his defending United Football League champions, and that’s chemistry.
"I want our guys to get to know each other," Fassel said as his team arrived for a Tuesday night meeting before hitting the field today. "I’m big on chemistry. I think a big factor in our success last year was guys got along and were there for each other. We need for that to continue."
A year ago, the Locos were flying blind as they prepared for their inaugural season. They were encamped in Casa Grande, Ariz., where they shared the practice facility with the California Redwoods.
This year, the team is training by itself, in Las Vegas, putting down roots in the community and getting accustomed to being at home.
"I like it," Fassel said of being in one place all the time. "I think it will help (build chemistry) because we’re going to be more comfortable being at home."
The Locos have 69 players in camp and need to get down to 50 for their Sept. 18 season opener against Florida at Sam Boyd. Twenty-nine players are back from the title team, and Fassel said that should help expedite his chemistry-first mandate.
"They know what’s expected," he said of the returnees, which include quarterback Tim Rattay, who will start this season after backing up J.P. Losman last year. "We’ve got a lot of leaders. I’m hoping the new guys will get comfortable quickly.
"I don’t want receivers just hanging out with receivers. I want them to get to know the defensive linemen. I want this team to bond."
Fassel admits things are way ahead of a year ago at this time. With Rattay back, he has someone who knows the system. The team’s June minicamp also gave the newcomers a taste of what to expect in the next month.
The Locos won’t have any two-a-days. They’ll be on the field at 8 a.m. and off their feet by 10:30 every day before it gets too hot. Fassel said he doesn’t want a beat-up team taking the field Sept. 18.
"We only have 69 guys," he said. "We can’t get them all banged up hitting twice a day. You don’t want injuries. We do need to have contact, but I’ll pace it. We’re going to be smart about everything we do."
Fassel said he has a faster team than a year ago. He has a bigger offensive line, which he hopes will protect Rattay while giving Marcel Shipp and the other running backs bigger holes to run through.
The Locos won’t have the benefit of a preseason game to gauge where they’re at before the opener. Instead, they’ll rely on Fassel’s experience to have them ready to go on opening night.
"The essence of coaching is knowing what your players can and can’t do," Fassel said. "We’ve got a month to find out."
■ NOTES — All practices at Sam Boyd are open to the public with free admission. The team will not practice Sunday and Aug. 29. … No former UNLV players are on the 69-man training camp roster.
Contact sports reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or at 702-387-2913.