January 10-11, 2001
Dont ask Birmingham Bolts safety Calvin Jackson if the XFL
is real football unless you want an earful in return. Following
Thursday nights practice, an UPN-TV reporter from Tampa asked
Jackson how he responds to critics who say the XFL will be
fake or scripted. Come on out here and go through some of
these drills with us, the former Miami Dolphins starter said.
This is our job and its not fake. Guys are going to get
hurt out here and there is nothing fake about that. People
are going to say whatever they want to say and I cant do
anything about that, he said. I know Im out here every
day and I know what real football is. This is fun, almost
like playing Pop Warner again. Nobody would ever accuse Pop
Warner of being a fraud. Not even somebody from Tampa.
Even if Alabama and UAB never hook up on the college football
field, players from the two schools hooked up for a 40-yard
touchdown pass as team period wound down at Thursday nights
practice. Former Tide quarterback Jay Barker found former
Blazer receiver Kevin Drake behind the secondary on a post
pattern on the next-to-last play Thursday evening to help
close out the two practices on a positive offensive note.
Friday is scrimmage day in Orlando. All four XFL teams training
here will square off in live scrimmages Friday at Showalter
Field in Winter Park. Orlando and Chicago start the festivities
at 2 p.m. Birmingham and New York/New Jersey follow at 7 p.m.
The Bolts and Hitmen are scheduled to go 60 plays divided
into three 20-play segments. In between the scrimmage segments,
the teams will work against each other on special teams.
Center Ryan Thomassie is expected to be out until the second
week of the season following surgery to repair the lateral
meniscus in his left knee. The surgery is scheduled for Friday
at HealthSouth in Birmingham. From LSU, Thomassie was the
early leader to start at center after a productive 10 days
of training camp.
Dave Arslanian has some advice for XFL fans that may be planning
to play fantasy football when he new league kicks off in February.
The way Birminghams offensive coordinator sees it, taking
Bolts receiver Stepfret Williams and tight end Ed Smith is
Ive never played, but if the fantasy league is about stats,
then you have to take those guys, Arslanian said. Both of
them have a chance to ring up some big numbers.
Lets put it this way, Arslanian said during Wednesdays
practice. If we get into our season and Stepfret and Ed dont
have big stats then we are going to be in trouble, and Coach
(Gerry) DiNardo will have me going down the road looking for
The Thunderbolts and the Orlando Rage worked together for
a portion of Wednesdays practice, putting in a half-hour
working on live special teams situations. Each team had the
opportunity to polish punting and punt returns, along with
field goal and field goal blocks.
Birmingham place kickers Brad Palazzo and Andy Russ made each
of their field goal attempts, both kicking for 37 and 47 yards.
Holder Kevin Drake did an exceptional job of getting a high
snap on the ground for Palazzos first kick.
For the third time in two days, the Bolts blocked a field
goal attempt. This time it was Chris Shelling who came from
the outside to block an Orlando placement try.
Professional football scouts were at Birminghams Wednesday
practice in abundance. Several NFL teams were represented,
but probably the most recognizable to some Bolts players was
former Auburn running backs coach Bud Casey, who works for
the Tennessee Titans. Casey was Bolts running back James Bostics
position coach when he reported to Auburn.
Some of the other teams scouting the Thunderbolts were the
Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL, along
with the Canadian Football Leagues Montreal Alouettes. San
Jose was the lone Arena League representative. Even a representative
of the XFL brethren Chicago Enforcers was present.
Linebacker Dion Foxx isnt 30 after all. Bolts elder statesmen
and offensive tackle Ed King was convinced Foxx needed recruiting
to Birminghams Old Man Club because he wouldnt list or
talk about his birthday. Foxx only laughed off inquiries before
the truth surfaced Wednesday. Much to Kings disappointment,
Foxx was born on June 11, 1971, leaving King, quarterback
Casey Weldon and tight end Ed Smith as exclusive members of