Despite the cloudy skies and a couple of sprinkles, the Corpus Christ Hammerheads arrived at Calallen High School Saturday afternoon ready to go for the team's first practice for the 2008 Intense Football League season.
Although a few members of the team showed up late, Coach Jason McKinley let them slide, but warned them of the consequences if it happens again.
"If you show up late without letting me know, you're cut." McKinley said after practice. "It's a simple as that."
The Hammerheads are preparing for their second season at Citgo Field in the Central Pavilion Arena of the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds, which begins March 15.
"It's been a long time coming," said sales director Robert Wehling. "We're really excited about the changes that are happening this year."
Included in those changes for the 2008 season is a new expansion team, the Fairbanks Grizzlies. This is the second team from Alaska to join the IFL. Last season, the Alaska Wild made its debut as well as the Katy Ruff Riders and the Frisco Thunder.
Also changing is the playoff format. Instead of the top four teams going to the playoffs, the top six will make a run for the IFL title.
The top two teams will have a bye week while the other four teams will battle for a spot in the semifinals.
The Hammerheads know a thing or two about advancing in the playoffs. They have made the championship game, known as the Intense Bowl, for the last two seasons, but lost both times.
"If we get to a peak and ride another long winning streak, we can get to the championship game," McKinley said. "I'm excited about our return to Robstown. The crowd gets very into it and I'm really anxious to see what kind of chemistry our team is going to bring with some new guys on our team."
Making his return with Corpus Christi is 2006 IFL Defensive Player of the Year Roy Salas, who was motivating his teammates to do their best during practice.
"It's going to take a ton of determination to win the championship this year," Salas said.
"It would mean the world to me to win it. It's the next best thing to my family."
The inside linebacker is also aware that it takes a special kind of defense to excel in the IFL.
"In defense, you are going to get scored on, but if you're tenacious, you're going to make those plays that the team needs," Salas said.
Noticeably missing from this year's squad is quarterback Wes Cooper, who was traded to Frisco in exchange for their quarterback, Dustin Almond.
Almond is the defending 2007 IFL Offensive Player of the Year.
The Dallas-native led the league in passing yards per game (244.5) and touchdown passes (68).
"It felt good winning that award last year, but there was an emptiness inside not winning it all last year," Almond said.
Almond is hoping to move his new team forward and get the Hammerheads over the hump and win the IFL title.
"This is one team I wouldn't want to play against," Almond said. "I lost to this team three times in a row last year. If you can't beat them, join them."