Redwoods gear up for UFL debut

On Thursday night, strong safety Tony Parrish will be staked out in the defensive backfield, carefully surveying the eyes of quarterback Mike McMahon, looking for any clues that could lead to a game-changing interception or bone-jarring open-field tackle.

Just a few years ago, that scenario would have been played out in front of 75,000 fans and a worldwide audience of millions, but on Thursday it will happen in the cozier confines of Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, where 20,000 curious onlookers are expected to show up for the opening game of the inaugural United Football League season.

McMahon, part of the San Francisco-based California Redwoods, will be squaring off against Parrish and the Las Vegas Locomotives. The other two teams in the league are the New York Sentinels and the Florida Tuskers. The eight-week season will be capped off by a championship contest between the two top teams on Nov. 27.

Undaunted by an economic recession and scheduling matchups with the more-established NFL, the backers of the UFL have touted their infant league as a cheaper, more accessible alternative to the detached and pricey NFL.

Tickets are going for as cheap as $15, and there will be special halftime attractions where fans can interact with players and coaches. And unlike other alternative football leagues such as the XFL, the UFL will be played during the NFL and college football’s traditional fall season. That scheduling scenario that will actually benefit the league, according to Dennis Green, former Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals head coach, and current coach of the California Redwoods, one of four teams competing in the NFL.

“America really likes its football in the fall,” Green said. “People are drawn to the tradition of playing at this time of the year, and we believe we can use that to our advantage.”

Green’s squad will be comprised of a crew of former NFL journeymen, younger salary-cap victims and products of the Bay Area’s local colleges and universities. McMahon will pilot the offense, with help from running back Cory Ross, speedy wideout B.J. Sams and linebacker Worrell Williams, a former standout at Cal.

Handicapping league favorites from a list of names is always difficult — especially considering many players have been out of service for extended periods of time — but an initial glance of the teams indicates that the Florida Tuskers have the strongest collection of players.

The Tuskers boast running back Tatum Bell, last seen rushing for 86 yards and two touchdowns for the Denver Broncos in their season-ending game a year ago.

Las Vegas, with former NFL quarterbacks J.P. Losman and Tim Rattay, should be able to put up strong offensive numbers, and the Sentinels will feature a strong pass-rushing attack with Simeon Rice, who racked up over 100 sacks in the NFL.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

 

Redwoods 2009 schedule

All home games will be played at AT&T Park.

When  Opponent
Thursday, 
6 p.m. 

at Las Vegas
Locomotives

Oct. 17, 
6 p.m. 
New York
Sentinels
Oct. 22, 
4 p.m. 
at Florida
Tuskers
Oct. 29, 
4 p.m. 
at New York
Sentinels
Nov. 14, 
6 p.m. 
Las Vegas
Locomotives
Nov. 19, 
6 p.m. 
Florida
Tuskers
 

 

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