The San Antonio Commanders went through Sunday’s training camp practice in pads. That gave them the chance to do some hitting.
Linebackers went through some drills where they took on blocks from running backs and tight ends.
Here are the 12 linebackers currently on the training camp roster:
58 Arthur Brown, Kansas State
98 Jayrone Elliott, Toledo
56 Danny Ezechukwu, Purdue
50 Kennan Gilchrist, Appalachian State
43 Joe Lanning, Iowa State
53 Austin Larkin, Purdue
51 Robert Myers, Minnesota State-Mankato
59 Aamir Petrose, Wesley
52 Ed Shockley, Villanova
55 Nick Temple, Cincinnati
54 Shaan Washington, Texas A&M
40 Jaboree Williams, Wake Forest
Note: The Commanders announced today that Kennan Gilchrist changed numbers from 47 to 50.
Way back at San Antonio Commanders mini-camp in December, defensive backs spent most of their time going through drills on one part of the field while receivers went through their own drills on another part of the drill.
With training camp now in its second week, players from the two positions have gone head to head more often. When practices progressed from helmets only, to helmets and shoulder pads, and then full pads, the competition and trash talk has heated up.
Training camp report
Sunday’s practiced started later that usual, kicking off at 1:45 p.m. instead of the usual 11:30 a.m. Players hit the field under sunny skies and about 60 degrees. Late in the practice session, clouds moved in the the temperature dropped into the high 50s.
On a new team in a new league, Demarcus Ayers finds himself in the role of a veteran.
The wide receiver from the University of Houston spent time with three NFL teams and is one of the most experienced players in the San Antonio Commanders’ training camp.
He saw action in two regular-season games and two playoff games for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2016 season. He was signed to the New England Patriots practice squad in 2017 and Chicago Bears practice squad in 2018.
Ayers can see the Commanders coming together in the week and a half since the players reported to camp.
“The grind of camp right now, we’re like eight days in,” Ayers said. “Guys are starting to get the details down. I think the offense as much as we’ve been trying to put stuff in, the strengths and stuff like that, I think we’ve been doing a good job overall as a staff and as professional athletes.”
While with the Steelers, Ayers caught six passes for 53 yards and one touchdown in the regular season. He had three catches for 27 yards in two playoff games.
He entered the NFL draft after his junior season at Houston. In his final college season, he led the American Conference with 98 receptions. He had 1,222 receiving yards in 14 games.
Ayers was a star quarterback in high school. His senior year he led Lancaster (just south of Dallas) to the state title game. He rushed for 1,337 yards and 16 touchdowns and passed for 1,823 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Now a 5-foot-9, 182-pound receiver, Ayers believes his quarterbacking experience continues to benefit him on the field.
“Just the knowledge, the whole understanding of football,” Ayers said. “You have to know everything in every situation with the protections, how to get open, the timing from the quarterbacks, the blocking, the running backs’ paths and how to be be on the right shoulder to know he pops off a big run.
“It’s a very unique thing and it takes a lot of poise and a lot of knowlege playing the quarterback position so when you’re in other positions it makes the game a lot smoother for you.”
After a day off from practice Friday, the team returned to the field at Central Catholic High School under clear blue skies and temperatures in the 60s.
It looks like Dustin Vaughan is the leader in the four-way quarterback competition. Riley said not so fast. There is no depth chart yet and nobody has publicly been named the starter or first quarterback.
“At this point we’ve got a group of players, it’s a first-year team, a beautiful thing to see take place,” Riley said of the competition in training camp. “I just want to leave the door open so that all of these guys can think of it as an opportunity. The real depth chart doesn’t have to take place for a while.”
Faces on the sidelines
Alliance of American Football (AAF) co-founder Charlie Ebersol and former Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Rams head coach Jeff Fisher visited Commanders training camp on Saturday.
Two new players
The Commanders have added offensive lineman Mason Gentry from SMU and wide receiver Greg Ward Jr. from Houston to the roster. The Commanders also terminated the rights of defensive back Tre Dickerson.
From the Commanders daily news release:
Appeared in 45 career games at Southern Methodist University along the defensive line … transitioned to
offensive line after college … made 107 tackles in college, including 8.0 for loss, 4.5 sacks and four passes
defended … undrafted in 2018 NFL Draft.
Greg Ward Jr.
Played in 49 career games at the University of Houston … played wide receiver and quarterback as a freshman
before switching to quarterback full time as a sophomore … amassed 11,080 yards and 93 total touchdowns at
Houston … 2015 Earl Campbell Award winner … ranked third in total yards, fourth in passing yards and 10 in
rushing yards at Houston … member of the Super Bowl LII champion Eagles’ practice squad in 2017 …
undrafted in 2017 NFL Draft.
Carl Whitley is a firm believer San Antonio is ready for a pro football team.
He hears the talk since the Alliance of American Football announced it was coming to town.
“They love it. When you walk around now, everybody talks about it,” Whitley said last week. “They can’t wait to see the team.”
The former Roosevelt High School wide receiver is part of the building process of the new San Antonio Commanders, as he tries to continue his football career.
“That’s why I’m happy I’m on the team and I’m from here,” Whitley said. “I’ve got a community behind me. Family and friends. They just want to see this team. We’ve been waiting for a team for the longest. Now we’ve got one. Whole San Antonio is ready to rise. Everybody sees how we are with the Spurs. It’s going to be great.”
Whitley has been with the Commanders through mini-camp in December and now training camp, which just completed its first week.
“One thing I gained is I’m familiar with the playbook now,” Whitley said of the carry-over from mini-camp to training camp. “We got started early. I feel like I’ve got a little edge on. I’m ready to get in. I’m a little ahead of my time.
“When you go into certain camps you’re not really ready. This camp we’re ready. We’ve got plays together.”
After Roosevelt, Whitley played two seasons of junior college football at Cisco College.
Whitley spent three years at Abilene Christian. He sat out the 2016 season after suffering a knee injury late in the 2015 season. In 2015, he played in 10 games and had 10 catches for 374 yards with two touchdowns. In 2017, he played in 11 games and made 31 catches for 307 yards with five touchdowns.
Even in high school, Whitley never played in the Alamodome. He got to spend some time on the field there last week in a team meet-and-greet event for season ticket holders.
“I’ve never played in the Alamodome in all my time playing here,” Whitley said. “It’s been good walking down on that field. Actually being able to play on that field is crazy to me.”
Photo note: Photos of Whitley are from the first six days of training camp. Whitley was limited in practice on Saturday do to what a team official called a toe issue.
San Antonio Commanders running back Aaron Green is in familiar territory.
He grew up in the city and was a star at Madison High School.
He played three collegiate seasons at TCU. As a senior, he rushed for 1,272 yards (seventh best in TCU history) and 11 touchdowns. In his final college game at the Alamodome, the Commanders’ home field, he ran for 101 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries as TCU beat Oregon in the Alamobowl.
Green is currently part of the Commanders’ 75-man training camp roster. The 5-foot-10, 203-pounder is competing for a spot on the 52-man regular-season roster and a starting spot.
The Commanders open the first Alliance of American Football (AAF) season with a home game at the Alamodome against the San Diego Fleet on Feb. 9.
The reason many football players flocked to the Alliance of American Football (AAF) was to get another chance of reaching the NFL.
For San Antonio Commanders kicker Nick Rose, the road back to the NFL was a short one. Earlier this week, Rose was at Commanders training camp.
Now Rose is with the Los Angeles Chargers – who picked up the former University of Texas kicker to handle the kickoff duties during the playoffs. The Chargers play the New England Patriots in the AFC divisional playoffs on Sunday at 12:05 p.m. Central time.
This is the note that appeared in the Commanders’ training camp news release Thursday:
“In transactions, kicker Nick Rose (Texas) was placed on the Reserve/Other League List. Contract terminated per authorized alternative league release.”
Rose had played for the Chargers in the past. Here is the USA Today story: USAtoday.com
Andrew McDonald’s pro football record shows more teams than games played. From 2012 to 2016 he was signed by the Dolphins, Panthers, Seahawks, Colts, Browns, Chargers and Texans. During that stretch his only playing time came in two games with Seattle in 2014.
Houston cut McDonald in 2016 and he hasn’t been on a roster since.
But that’s just the football part of his life. He was diagnosed with cancer – and beat it. He spent two years and ministry school in Indiana and might go back and finish that when his football career is over for good.
For the moment, McDonald’s life is focused on football again, specifically on San Antonio Commanders training camp.
“First week goes by quick,” said McDonald, a 6-foot-5, 314-pound offensive lineman. “Man, it’s so good to get back into it. It’s been awhile. Two years since I’ve been back. But man so good.
“All the camaraderie of the teammates, actually putting on pads, hitting people. It’s a good feeling. I feel like we’ve really bonded together.”
McDonald started every game at left tackle for Indiana University his junior and senior seasons – 2010 and 2011.
With the Commanders, he is currently seeing more time right tackle but also working some at the other positions on the offensive line. As part of a new team, he is part of a group that is trying to come together quickly.
“Everybody is new so we’ve all got to really learn each other, find what kind of people we are,” McDonald said. “You’ve got to be able to trust the teammate next to you, especially offensive line.
“It’s working out. Everybody here on the offensive line, I love them. We’re a pretty tight knit group. Obviously you’ve got to take steps, but it’s coming along pretty well.”
San Antonio Commanders training camp was a little noisier on Wednesday.
The Commanders practiced in full pads – helmets, shoulder pads, thigh pads, hip pads – and did a little more hitting as they took one step closer to putting things together with the AAF season opener a month away.
“It felt great man,” said Zack Sanchez, a cornerback from Oklahoma. “I know for most of the guys it’s been awhile since you felt that thud so I’m glad we got to get out here, get that feel again, get that excitement back.”
Sanchez went to high school in Keller, north of Fort Worth, and played in 36 games over three seasons at Oklahoma. As a junior in 2015, his final season with the Sooners, he intercepted seven passes. The next spring he was drafted in the fifth round by the Carolina Panthers.
Sanchez saw action with the Panthers during the 2016 season, playing in three games and starting one. He had a workout with the New York Giants in August, 2018.
“Once you’re out of that loop it’s hard to get back in. It’s real hard,” Sanchez said. “This is the best thing to happen, better than the CFL. There’s other leagues that are trying it.
“There’s a lot of home-grown talent here and a lot of guys who don’t get the look they may need. It’s a blessing to be here and I’m excited for it.”
Training camp report: Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2018
There was more contact with the full pads on than in the previous four days of training camp, but still no full tackling.
Commanders head coach Mike Riley could sense the energy in practice. The Commanders open the season Feb. 9 against the San Diego Fleet.
“Now it’s the real deal, one month away,” Riley said. “It feels good. I think our guys have made some real progress considering the short amount of time we’ve been together. There’s a million things left to do but I’ve really enjoyed working with these guys and it’s certainly real now.”
The weather cooled off and it felt a little more like winter, at least by Texas standards. After four straight days in the 70s, it never got above the 60s today.
Commanders add defensive back
The Commanders announced they signed De’Vante Bausby, a defensive back from Pittsburg State of Kansas. Bausby played six games with the Chicago Bears in 2016, was on the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad in 2017 and played in six games with the Eagles this season.