After a short training camp, the Wild might not be completely prepared to start the 2012 Indoor Football League season.
It shouldn’t take long for the Wild’s readiness to reach its peak, though. The team plays perhaps its most meaningful regular-season game when it travels to Allen for tonight’s opener.
The Wranglers feature former NFL superstar Terrell Owens, who is among the career leaders in several receiving categories. He missed the 2011 NFL season due to a knee injury and lack of interest from NFL franchises. The 38-year-old Owens, a part owner of the Wranglers, makes his IFL debut tonight.
More than just casual fans will be paying attention to tonight’s game in Texas, and Wild coach Morris Lollar said his team can benefit from the energy created from an expected large crowd.
"Going into the first game there are a lot of unknowns," Lollar said. "We’ll be able to lean on our veterans — they’ve been on the road, they’ve been in a hostile environment. It’s a good thing that we are opening up on the road, it takes a little bit of the pressure off."
The Wild pared its roster to 25 early in camp and has been practicing with that group for a little more than a week. Several new players are getting acclimated, but Wichita has a stabilizer in returning quarterback Phil Staback.
Lollar, like most coaches, would prefer more time to develop chemistry and work on the game’s finer points. But those things can be accomplished during games, too.
"I wish I could say we were 100 percent ready," Lollar said. "I’m not 100 percent sure that we are 100 percent ready. We could use a little bit more time to get the guys ready. But you know what, Allen is under the same circumstances as we are, so we’ll line it up and we’ll play."
In the weeks leading up to the game, Lollar was skeptical about whether Owens would actually play. The partnership between Owens and the Wranglers appears solid, though, and several national media outlets have written about the six-time Pro Bowler’s return to professional football.
Two Wild players might have a particular interest in Owens’ presence. One is Tim Simmons, who led the IFL with 110 catches while playing for Wenatchee Valley in 2011.
Lollar said Simmons is eager to prove that he is the league’s top receiver and that Owens’ best days are behind him.
"He wants to show ’T.O.’s not worth all this hype because I’ve been in this league and I’ve been a stud in this league,’ " Lollar said. "(Owens) is a stud in the NFL but not in this league. I think Tim is upset about it, he feels uneasy about it. The best thing about it is you get a chance to play and prove everybody wrong."
Simmons has mastered the nuances of the indoor game, something Lollar predicts Owens could have trouble adjusting to.
That’s where another Wild player, Rashad Washington, becomes involved. Lollar said all of his defensive backs are looking forward to getting their licks in on Owens, but that might be especially true for Washington, a former New York Jets safety.
"It’s a different game," Lollar said. "We’re not too worried about him — if he gets his catches, he gets his catches. We just want to win the game. If he comes across the middle, he’s going to get hit. T.O. has never had to deal with that wall (surrounding the field). That wall comes pretty fast."