L.A. Avengers open training camp for 2004 season

Los Angeles Avengers

January 8, 2004 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I) - Los Angeles Avengers

News Release

LOS ANGELES -- In preparation for their fifth season of play in the 18-year-old Arena Football League, the Los Angeles Avengers will open training camp on Monday, Jan. 12, with a pair of practices. Under the watchful eye of head coach Ed Hodgkiss, the Avengers will split their training camp practice sessions between two locations.

Both of Monday's workouts, which begin at 8:40 a.m. and 1 p.m., will be held inside the Spruce Goose Hangar at Playa Vista, where the team's field from STAPLES Center has been laid out for the second consecutive year. The entrance to the facility is at the intersection of Jefferson and Centinela Boulevards in Playa del Rey, off the 90 Freeway.

"We're fortunate to get back inside on turf for our training camp," said Hodgkiss, who is beginning his third season at the helm of the Avengers. "It put us ahead of the game last year and helped us opened up strong. There's a different speed to things on turf and it really helps with timing. But sometimes we'll practice on grass to take it easy on the players' legs."

When the Avengers practice outdoors on grass, those sessions will continue to be held at the Avenger Training Facility at West L.A. College in Culver City (including a scrimmage and kickoff party for season ticket holders on Jan. 24).

The Avengers will conclude training camp in Denver, Colo., with two days (Jan. 28-29) of practices and a scrimmage against the Colorado Crush, before returning to Los Angeles to prepare for the season opener on Sunday, Feb. 8, versus the Arizona Rattlers at America West Arena in Phoenix.

The Avenger roster, which currently consists of 37 players, will be trimmed to the regular-season limit of 24 by Monday, Feb. 2.

Twenty newcomers will be in training camp to compete for roster spots with 17 returnees. Among the familiar faces are record-setting quarterback Tony Graziani, "All-Arena" wide receiver/linebacker Greg Hopkins and offensive specialist Chris Jackson, who earned the AFL's "Offensive Player of the Year" award last June after tying a single-season league record with 46 touchdown receptions in 2003.

"We're fortunate to return all the guys who did a great job for us last season, so as a coaching staff we're extremely excited to get going and put the players in position to have a special season," Hodgkiss said. "That's the mindset we'll have from day one."

Leading the way for the newcomers is "All-Arena" offensive/defensive lineman Al Lucas, veteran NFL lineman Jeremy Staat, 300-pound fullback/linebacker Wes Ours and former University of Southern California defensive back Antuan Simmons.

Last month, the Avengers had 35 players in town for an impressive three-day mini camp and made no cuts. Since then, the team has signed three additional players and lost OL/DL Kevin Watson, who recently inked a free agent contract with the New Orleans Saints.

"We came out of mini camp with a great group of guys and accomplished a lot of good things," Hodgkiss said. "We expect to get up and running on Monday, going full speed.

"The spot that we are really deep at is fullback/linebacker," Hodgkiss added. "We have five guys who are good enough to start for anybody in the AFL. We also upgraded our frontline. It's tough to be a lineman in this league and play all year, so you really have to have good depth there. We've achieved that and added some excellent pass rushers who can really get upfield."

Eight Avenger games during the 2004 season will be televised on KNBC Channel 4, including the home opener on Sunday, Feb. 22, versus the San Jose SaberCats at STAPLES Center.

Nine-game season ticket packages are now on sale and can be purchased by calling 1-888-AVENGERS or online at www.laavengers.com.

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