By now, the Locomotives were supposed to be preparing for Week 2 of their United Football League season. Instead, they open their training camp with their first practice today.
President and coach Jim Fassel and his staff will put 70 players through their paces at 8 a.m. at the Sam Boyd Stadium practice fields as the Locos get ready for their revised UFL opener Sept. 17 at Sacramento.
The league, which has lost more than $100 million in its first two seasons and was unable to get a national TV contract for this season, decided to push everything back a month. In mid-July, the Locos’ players and coaches had spent a week together in meetings for what amounted to a noncontact minicamp. Now, they’re finally on the field, and they have three weeks to get ready to pursue a third straight UFL title.
“The biggest challenge is we’ve picked up some new guys since last month, and when we get going, those guys are going to have to get up to speed,” Fassel said. “I want them to feel comfortable so they can help us.”
The Locos are set at most positions, including quarterback, where Chase Clement is the established starter. Fassel said the competition for starting spots will come at wide receiver and on the offensive and defensive lines.
“We’ve got a lot of depth and talent,” he said. “We have six new receivers to go with our veterans (Andrae Thurman, Tab Perry and Sammie Parker), and I expect some real battles there. Same with the offensive and defensive line. We’re substantially better on both sides of the line, and when you’ve got competition with good people pushing each other, it brings out their best, and it ultimately makes you a better football team.”
Fassel said despite having fewer days to prepare, he’s not going to double-up practices or risk injuries by keeping his team on the field for extended periods.
“I don’t want to wear them down,” he said. “We’ve got to keep them as fresh as we can. When you play a short (six-game) schedule like we’re playing, every game is critical, and you need to be able to have your best people on the field. So we’re going to be very smart about training camp.”
Among the newcomers trying to make the team is former UNLV linebacker Beau Bell, recently signed as a free agent. Five of the team’s seven selections from the May 2 UFL Draft are in camp, including Joel Bell, a 6-foot-7-inch, 310-pound offensive tackle who was the Locos’ first pick.
“We’ve improved our team,” Fassel said. “But everyone in the league got better, and we weren’t going to stand pat.”
■ NOTES — Practices are open to the public, and information on the workout schedule is available at the team’s website (lasvegaslocos.com). … All Locos games again will be broadcast locally on KWWN (1100 AM). Fassel also will have a weekly TV show on KLAS Channel 8.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.