Sacramento Mountain Lions training camp wraps up Friday

Brad Schmidt

As the Sacramento Mountain Lions near their season opener, the team has been preparing in training camp for their debut season in Sacramento.

Before coming to Sacramento, the team was known as the California Redwoods and played its home games in San Jose and San Francisco. The team finished the season with a 2-4 record and placed third in the United Football League.

This season the Mountain Lions will play their home games at Hornet Stadium.

The Mountain Lions training camp started Aug. 23 at the Harvard Corporate Center and is going exactly how head coach Dennis Green expected.

“We’re giving it all we got,” Green said. “We have a lot of guys fighting for their spots on the roster. That’s what makes for a good training camp.”

Green and his coaching staff currently have 69 players in camp and will make cuts to eventually end up with a 52-man roster before the season starts.

“The only pieces of this team that are pretty much set is both the offensive and defensive lines due to experience,” Green said.

Green said he has another position on his team that is very secure. The starting quarterback will be former NFL star Daunte Culpepper for the Mountain Lions.

“Daunte is one of the best pro quarterbacks around,” Green said. “Having a player of his caliber will mean a lot to this team’s success.”

After watching the Mountain Lions practice, it is clear Culpepper gives this group the veteran leadership that every successful football team needs.

“I’ve always embraced the leadership role,” Culpepper said. “I’m not a loud or real cheerful leader, but I will speak up when necessary. It’s very important to make sure that the team is doing all the little things. Like never walking but rather jogging on the practice field.”

In recent years, Culpepper’s career has been hindered by a nagging injury to his right knee. Culpepper is finally not wearing any protective knee braces and is moving around the pocket like he did in his early years in the NFL.

“The knee is 100 percent,” Culpepper said. “I’m not battling any injuries this season and that feels great.”

Culpepper is not the only player on the Mountain Lions who is poised to make an impact.

The Mountain Lions may have two of the best players in the UFL at running back. Cory Ross, who led the UFL in rushing yards last season, is complemented with former Michigan Wolverine Chris Perry.

Ross attended University of Nebraska where he ranks ninth all-time in career rushing yards. He also played from 2006 to 2008 with the Baltimore Ravens as a back-up running back and kick returner.

While at the University of Michigan, Perry acquired a long list of accomplishments. In his senior season 2003 he rushed for 1,674 yards and 18 touchdowns. Perry finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy vote, received the Doak Walker Award and was the Big Ten Conference MVP. Perry was a first round draft pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2004 NFL draft.

Perry was cut from the team in 2009 and is poised to prove he can become a dominant running back once again.

Perry has not appeared in training camp due to a death in his family. He is expected to join training camp this week and compete with Ross for the starting spot.

The Mountain Lions have acquired former Sac State Hornet standout receiver, Otis Amey. Amey played at Sac State from 2001 to 2004, where became the school’s all-time leader in nearly every receiving and returning category. Amey played for the San Francisco 49ers in 2005, where he served as a kick returner.

Amey says he is not the only reliable target for Culpepper on this roster.

“Joe West, Sonny Shackelford, Cameron Colvin and Antonio Chatman can all make big plays,” Amey said. “We are all batting for the top two positions on the depth chart.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Mountain Lions are led by stand out linebacker Dontarrious Thomas. Thomas was a four-year starter at the University of Auburn where he finished his career with 350 tackles, 6.5 sacks and 15 interceptions.

“Thomas is our leader on defense,” Green said. “His work ethic and attitude rubs off on the rest of the guys. That’s what makes him special to this team.”

The Mountain Lions training camp wraps up Friday and they will open their season on Sept. 18 on the road against the Hartford Colonials. The following weekend will be Sacramento’s first look at Mountain Lions as they host the Florida Tuskers.

Brad Schmidt can be reached at [email protected]