Five players find spot on Mountain Lions roster

Last week I wrote that the Sacramento Mountain Lions were holding open try outs in Sacramento on Saturday May 14 and Sunday May 15. A total of 245 players showed up to the workout, and five would find a spot on the roster on coach Dennis Green’s roster.

The Mountain Lions signed Eric Arogbofa (tight end, Tuskegee University), Daniel Catalano (defensive end, Northern Michigan University), JT Gilmore (linebacker, Western Oregon University), Adam Tafralis (quarterback, San Jose State) and Marcus Smith (defensive lineman, University of Arizona) after the Sacramento tryouts.

Tafralis grew up in Millbrae, where he starred at Mills High School. After three years at San Jose State (2004-07) he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Indianapolis Colts.

Smith was raised in San Diego before playing at Arizona. He has spent two seasons as a practice squad player before playing with the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes.

Before the open try outs in Sacramento, Coach Green and his coaching staff held similar tryouts in San Diego, signing both tight end Dominique Jones (Shepherd University) and defensive end Brian Coulter (University of Missouri).

“We had an exciting weekend of two tryouts in Sacramento,” Green said. “We were really impressed with a lot of players at the tryouts, but we did not want these particular (five) players to leave without knowing of our willingness to commit to them on the spot. They have the talent and potential to help us be a tremendous team in our upcoming season.”

That season will begin in August, but the schedule is yet to be finalized. Ticket information will be available soon at http://www.sacmountainlions.com.

Mountain Lions Name Martin Bayless Defensive Coordinator

While Sacramento was recovering from their football hangover that was the Super Bowl the Sacramento Mountain Lions made Martin Bayless defensive coordinator on Tuesday.

In 2010, Bayless was the special teams coordinator as well as the defensive backs coach for Sacramento.  The previous year Bayless was the defensive backs coach for the California Redwoods.

Bayless  played 13 years at  Safety in the NFL (1984-1996) and was  voted San Diego Chargers Man of the Year in 1990 and 1991 as well as the Kansas City Chiefs NFL Man of the Year in his final season as a pro.

After his playing days Bayless spent some time in the Buffalo Bills’ front office as the director of player development in 1998.  Since then he has moved to coaching, where he has coached at every level; from High School, to college, to NFL Europe.

Last season Bayless took care of two important parts of the Mountain Lions staff. Although he might not think so, there will be a lot more pressure on him.

“Martin Bayless has been on our staff for the two previous years and has an outstanding understanding of the UFL,” said Mountain Lions head coach Dennis Green. “With 13 years as an NFL player, coaching experience in the NFL and his years in NFL Europe, Martin is ideally suited to handle these added responsibilities.”

Bayless is appreciative of the opportunity and see’s a lot of potential in the UFL.

The UFL has definitely been a great developer of players and also coaches,” Bayless said. “People keep using the comparison of NFL Europe. There are a lot of talented people on all levels, whether they are coaches, players, PR directors, strength and conditioning coaches, looking for opportunities to grow in the business. This league has given me an opportunity to grow as a coach.”

Bayless was a safety in the NFL, playing for St. Louis, Buffalo, San Diego, Kansas City and Washington. He played in 192 NFL games, starting 153 and making 1,186 tackles, 11.5 sacks and 12 interceptions. He was a star at Bowling Green in college and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 1989. His 27 career interceptions at Bowling Green rank second in NCAA history.

It will be year no. 14 for Martin Bayless as the coach, but no year in his past will be as important as the one that precedes him.

Two more Mountain Lions make jump to NFL

While Santa Clause and his elves were getting ready for their busiest time of the year, two Sacramento Mountain Lions added their names to a long list.  Not  the list that Santa uses, but instead, a list of UFL players signed to NFL teams.

Fullback ,Tyler Clutts, and Kicker, Fabrizio Scaccia, are the most recent UFLers gone NFL. Clutts is now a member of the Cleveland Browns practice squad while Scaccia finds himself on the 49ers practice squad.

I know we’re talking about “practice”, but opportunities like these are what every aspiring pro football hopes for.

Clutts, who originally came to Sacramento as a long snapper, had a strong season that paved the way for Sacramento running back, Cory Ross. Ross ran for 435 yards and four touchdowns and recently was named 2010 UFL Offensive Player of the Year. He was able to adapt in the UFL and fill a need for Sacramento.  Clutts was orginally a defensive end coming out of college, but he actually played defensive end for Fresno State, recording 23.5 sacks in his collegiate career.

Scaccia played his first professional season for Sacramento this fall after spending six seasons playing semi-pro football. Last summer Scaccia played in the Arena Football league and was a member of the Arizona Rattlers. In ten games for Arizona, Scaccia went 69-74 on extra points and 1-4 on field goals.  In one of his first six seasons of semi-pro ball Scaccia put a 68-yarder between the uprights.

Mountain Lions head coach, Dennis Green spoke highly of these two players when asked about their departure.

Head Coach Dennis Green

Photo courtesy of David Alvarez

“Fabrizio and Tyler have been two of our most dedicated players,” Mountain Lions head coach Dennis Green said. “Both represent the classic success stories we find in the UFL. Their futures are truly bright. The entire community of Sacramento and our Mountain Lions fans are very proud of them.”

If Scaccia and Clutts can grab the attention of their coaches before the season ends, they may find themselves on an active NFL roster come next summer.

Daunte Culpepper isn’t done just yet

When Daunte Culpepper was taken by the Minnesota Vikings in 1999 and he put on the purple No. 11 jersey, the party started for him, but it only lasted for so long.

With guys like Cris Carter and Randy Moss, he was thrown to the Lions with Lions on his side. Soon after Carter’s departure, Culpepper would follow suit. In 2005, after he went down with a knee injury, he found himself calling Miami, Oakland and Detroit home in a span of just three years.

Since 2006, Culpepper has been in two of the toughest cities to play: Oakland and Detroit.  Peyton Manning wouldn’t be able to keep a job in either city.  Culpepper’s supporting cast has been far from supporting, and when a team struggles, the finger is either pointed at coaching or the man under center – and sometimes both.

The three-time NFL Pro Bowler found himself without a job in 2010, and his former head coach in Minnesota, Dennis Green, had one for him.

The same coach who drafted him out of the University of Central Florida was looking for a quarterback, and Culpepper was soon reunited with Green and Mike Kruczek, Culpepper’s offensive coordinator from his Central Florida days.

“Being able to be reunited with coach Green and my old college offensive coordinator coach Kruz (Mountain Lions offensive coordinator Mike Kruczek),” Culpepper said when asked what the highlight of the past season was.

Culpepper started all eight games this season for the UFL’s Sacramento Mountain Lions. He led the league in completions (183), attempts (300), passing yards (1,944) and completion percentage (61 percent).  Culpepper also tied for the lead in passing touchdowns with10 while also scoring two on the ground.

A few Mountain Lions teammates have taken advantage of their situation and made that leap to the next level.  Safety Andrew Sendejo was picked up by the Dallas Cowboys two weeks ago, and Culpepper’s backup, Richard Bartel, was signed by the Arizona Cardinals.  If Culpepper gets a call this year, he’ll listen, but he’s shutting down for the rest of the year.

“I have committed to my family that I would take the rest of this year to be home with them,” Culpepper said. “I also feel strongly that as a quarterback, the best situations are where you can prepare to play rather than being thrown into playing, with little to no preparation, but with an expectation to be successful. Been there, done that!”

If Culpepper is unable to sign with an NFL squad, expect him to be back in Sacramento. He showed appreciation to the fans here and made it known that he isn’t done playing football quite yet.

“I loved playing for Sacramento this year. I expect that if I choose not to sign with an NFL team in this coming off-season, then I will be more than happy to re-sign with Sacramento,” he said. “I love playing the game, and I have a lot of football left in me! I can see why the UFL chose Sacramento as a place to have a team. They are a committed group! No fair-weather fans in Sacramento!”

On Monday night, Culpepper was named one of the 50 greatest players in Minnesota Vikings history.  It’s hard to ignore the numbers he had early on in his career in Minnesota.

In his best statistical season Culpepper threw for 4,717 yards and 39 touchdowns with a passer rating of 110.9.

“I am really honored to be selected,” he said. “It will be tough to be on the sidelines watching instead of playing.”

The Sacramento team that had close to 50 players on its roster in its first season hopes that one of Minnesota’s top 50 will find himself in Sacramento come next season.

Sacramento Mountain Lion trades Cougar in for Star

When the Dallas Cowboys travel to play the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday, a familiar face to the Sacramento Mountain Lions faithful will be seen. The 6-foot-1 225 lb Safety, Andrew Sendejo, will be suiting up for the Cowboys after signing a contract on November 29.

In Sacramento, Sendejo, led his team with 48 tackles and ended up tying for second in the UFL. He made it known that he was thankful for his opportunity in Sacramento and appreciative of his time here.

“I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to come play in the UFL, because if it wasn’t for the UFL I probably wouldn’t be where I’m at. I’ll always remember my time in Sacramento.”

Going from the California weather to that of Dallas Texas won’t be a tough transition for him, being that he was raised in Texas.

Along with football, Sendejo played soccer, twice being named All-District. A dream as a kid playing High School football in Spring Branch, Texas, he’ll be able to turn that dream into a reality this Sunday, putting on his no. 36 Cowboys jersey for the first time.

“Family and friends are already Cowboys fans but now that they know somebody; they’re even bigger Cowboys fans,” Sendejo said. “I’m just trying to stay focused on football learning the playbook and learning the defense, [so I can] get on the field as fast as I can.”

Sendejo played college football for the Rice Owls, where he totaled 318 tackles, finishing his college career second on the all-time tackles list for Rice. He intercepted 9 passes, forced 7 fumbles and earned an honorable mention in 2009 but his senior season was cut short because of an injury. Sendejo participated in a rookie mini-camp with the Tampa Bay buccaneers and worked out for the New Orleans Saints but it didn’t work out. He would soon find himself flying out to Sacramento to play here for the Sacramento Mountain Lions.

He participated in his first practice for the Cowboys on Monday and will continue to play scout defense and scout special teams for the time being.

“I’m going out there to try and fly around, bust my tail and prove to the coaches and staff that they made a good decision.”

Kings remain cold at ARCO

If you live, work, or play in Sacramento I’m sure you’ve seen the new Sacramento Kings billboards.  There is one in particular right off of I-80 that reads “Bigger. Badder. Better.”  One player, who is pictured on that billboard, and a handful of other billboards around the area, is Kings Rookie DeMarcus Cousins.  He and his teammates took on the Detroit Pistons in a matinee game Sunday at ARCO Arena, whether they lived up to the third and final word of the billboard is still yet to be determined.

The Detroit Pistons started the season off with five straight losses but won three of their last four before they suited up to play the Kings.

Sacramento on the other hand won two of their first three but have lost five straight counting tonight’s frustrating 96-100 loss.  This being the fourth straight game the Kings were held under 100 after scoring over 100 in their first four games.

Although the Kings were able to take the lead early in the first quarter, something they weren’t able to do in the games they’ve won thus far, the Pistons took the lead midway through the first and didn’t look back.

“They had some big time shot makers making shots,” said coach Westphal. “Ben Gordon walked up with a coldblooded three and then hit that one from the corner. It was really contested. (Tayshuan) Prince made some huge plays and huge buckets. We didn’t quite get it done.”

While the Kings have struggled turning the ball over as of late, that wasn’t the reason they fell in this one.  You can point the finger at the two most important lines on the court, the free-throw line and three-point line (and yes, I know it’s not technically a line).  The Kings shot 66 percent from the foul-line and 11 percent from the arc, making only 2 of 18 three-pointers.  While the Pistons made one more three and shot half as many as the Kings.  Detroit also made 15 of their 19 free throws.

“We’re getting the shots we want. As a team we just need to knock ‘em down,” said Luther Head after the game. “As shooters, we need to take it a little more personal than that, that’s what we’re here to do.”

Head scored 13 points off the bench, shooting five for eight and making one the teams two three-pointers. Jason Thompson was also strong off the bench, scoring 10 points and grabbing 5 boards in his 17 minutes of play.  Tyreke Evans, who scored 20 points this afternoon, logged almost 40 minutes in on the floor but it was apparent that the nagging ankle injury is still with him.

A lot has been expected from “Boogie” Cousins and he knows it. He also knows that with being a rookie, he’s not going to get many calls his way.

“I can’t control the refs,” said Cousins, who had four fouls and picked up an early technical after voicing his opinion. “If I get the calls, I get them. If I don’t I just try to play through it, that’s basketball. That’s the way it is.”

Cousins, who was recently taken out of the starting lineup, came off the bench and had a rough night, turning the ball over six times.  Although he did tally eight rebounds, he’s still got a lot to learn, and that will come in due time.

Unlike the Kings, the Pistons had bright spots throughout their box score. Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince combined for 27 points, making 13 of 23 shots. Young point guard Rodney Stuckey added 17 points and 7 assists on the afternoon as well.

The Kings will have some time to work on those not so “free” free-throws Monday and Tuesday before they host the New York Knicks on Wednesday.

The jury is still out on that billboard, but by the end of the year maybe, just maybe, the Kings will have us thinking that the third word on that billboard is more accurate than that second word.

Photos Courtesy of Steven Chea

Fans Invited to see New-Look Kings

On October 3 at 4 p.m, Kings fans will have their first opportunity to welcome the new group of Kings at ARCO Arena. It will be the first chance for you and your friends and or family to see the new talent in action.

Coach Paul Westphal and his assistants will be leading the full practice, including a full-court scrimmage between teammates.  Unlike the Las Vegas Summer League, you will be able to see the 2010 Rookie of the Year play with his new teammate and potential 2011 Rookie of the Year, DeMarcus Cousins.

Admission is free and you won’t have to worry about paying for parking.  If you are interested in attending you will need to R.S.V.P.

If you haven’t looked at the roster lately here are the players currently on the 2010-2011 Sacramento Kings roster:

17 Connor Atchley F-C 6-10 225 05/31/1985 Texas
18 Omri Casspi F 6-9 225 06/22/1988 Yavne, Israel
31 Joe Crawford G 6-5 207 06/17/1986 Kentucky
15 DeMarcus Cousins F-C 6-11 270 08/13/1990 Kentucky
10 Samuel Dalembert C 6-11 250 05/10/1981 Seton Hall
13 Tyreke Evans G 6-6 220 09/19/1989 Memphis
32 Francisco Garcia G-F 6-7 195 12/31/1980 Louisville
8 J.R. Giddens G 6-5 215 02/13/1985 New Mexico
20 Donte’ Greene F 6-11 226 02/21/1988 Syracuse
9 Luther Head G 6-3 185 11/26/1982 Illinois
41 Darnell Jackson F 6-9 253 11/07/1985 Kansas
5 Eugene “Pooh” Jeter G 5-11 175 12/02/1983 Portland
24 Carl Landry F 6-9 248 09/19/1983 Purdue
42 Marcus Landry F 6-7 230 11/01/1985 Wisconsin
23 Donald Sloan G 6-3 205 01/15/1988 Texas A&M
34 Jason Thompson F 6-11 250 07/21/1986 Rider
19 Beno Udrih G 6-3 205 07/05/1982 Sempeter, Slovenia
33 Hassan Whiteside C 7-0 235 06/13/1989 Marshall
3 Antoine Wright F-G 6-7 215 02/06/1984 Texas A&M

The first chance you will have to see the Kings take on another NBA team will start the following week as the Kings prepare to take on the Phoenix Suns at ARCO on October 5.