Commanders open training camp workouts; drop Marlon Smith; Riley Smith injured

Commanders quarterback Dustin Vaughan unleashes a pass Saturday during the team's first training camp workout. - photo by Joe Alexander
Commanders quarterback Dustin Vaughan unleashes a pass Saturday during the team’s first training camp workout. – photo by Joe Alexander

San Antonio Commanders training camp: Saturday, Jan. 5, 2018

Marlon Smith was not listed on the San Antonio Commanders’ updated training camp roster, which was handed out by the team at Saturday’s practice.

Smith had been listed as a linebacker and No. 45. The former UTSA player was with the Commanders during mini-camp in December, but did not take part in drills at that time.

Sunny skies

The players hit the field on Saturday under bright sunshine and about 63 degrees. By the time they were packing up at the end of practice, the temperature was up to 73.

“We had a lot of fun today,” Commanders quarterback Dustin Vaughan said. “It was good. We’ve been waiting for this day to get started. First day of training camp. There’s been a lot of process that has got us to this point. Finally we start with a roster of 75. We’re able to kind of start building as a team leading to the regular season.

“It was fun. We’ve got a lot of work to do. One of the last things coach (Mike) Riley talked about is from here we just keep building. That’s what we’re going to keep doing.”

First injury

The one negative from the first practice of training camp was an injury to Riley Smith, a wide receiver from West Texas A&M. Smith, who had been with the Commanders during mini-camp in December, had to be helped from the field. It looked like he had ice on the back of his left leg when he was on the sidelines.

“It’s hard to see anybody go down. It’s definitely hard to see Riley go down,” said Vaughan, who also played at West Texas A&M. “I know how much work he’s put into it.

“I also know he has been here really since the beginning. He has developed relationships with guys on this team that I know this whole team really hurts for him. I really hope that the process of recovery starts really soon and he can make a full recovery.”

No contact

Words that were repeated over and over on Saturday were “no contact”. Players are going through the early training camp practices with helmets and jerseys but no pads. Hitting is not yet part of practice.

“This is what I remember about the San Antonio Riders,” said Commanders coach Mike Riley, who coached the San Antonio Riders of the World League in the early 1990s. “These guys are really fired up to continue their playing career. They’re good players and they want to make the team.

“We’re regulated by what they can wear right now and it’s smart to start them out without full gear. It’s easy to get them back into it this way. You just have to be careful and keep reminding them that they don’t have gear on. We have to be very smart when we practice against each other and you have to be a pro. You’ve got to learn how to practice in shorts so you can get some repetition without all the big hitting all the time.”

Riley stopped practice more than once to remind the players over and over not to be hitting. That goes against the instincts of the players in the defensive secondary.

“One of the hardest things when you practice like this is for the defensive backs,” Riley said. “It’s on them to avoid the collision.”

Last play, big play

The final play of practice featured a connection between two players who were teammates at UTSA. Quarterback Dalton Sturm completed a long pass to wide receiver Josh Stewart on the sideline. Stewart had shown good hands during mini-camp and his grab at the end of Saturday’s practice was an attention-getter.

Quarterback Dalton Sturm (1) and receiver Josh Stewart (far right) celebrate a long pass completion on the final play of practice. - photo by Joe Alexander
Quarterback Dalton Sturm (1) and receiver Josh Stewart (far right) celebrate a long pass completion on the final play of practice.

Troy Polamalu

Coincidentally, in a workout that made “no contact” a priority, one of the NFL’s legendary hitters was watching from the sidelines. Former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, a four-time All-Pro, is the head of player relations for the Alliance of American Football (AAF).

Worth reading is this story where Polamalu talks about his concussions and head injuries in a 2012 ESPN story:

The official game ball of the Alliance of American Football (AAF). - photo by Joe Alexander
The official game ball of the Alliance of American Football (AAF).

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