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AVENGER REPORT

Hopkins Enjoys Rest but Is Ready to Play

May 23, 2003|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

Greg Hopkins' name was in a familiar spot this week -- on the Arena Football League's All-Arena and All-Ironman teams.

Hopkins, a veteran receiver and linebacker for the Avengers, was chosen All-Arena for the second year in a row and All-Ironman for the third consecutive season.

Hopkins, however, is still getting used to the Avengers having to wait another week before their quarterfinal playoff game. The fourth-seeded Avengers (11-5) have a bye this weekend and will play June 1 at Staples Center -- probably against fifth-seeded Dallas (10-6), which plays 12th-seeded Georgia (8-8) in a wild-card game on Saturday.

The Avengers held light workouts Tuesday and Thursday. They will have another on Saturday before serious preparations for their quarterfinal opponent begins.

"It's a bit of an adjustment after going through the same schedule for 16 weeks," said Hopkins, who is in his eighth AFL season and was the Ironman of the Year in 2002. "With the bye and short days, I'm getting restless at home trying to find something to do."

Hopkins had 87 receptions for 1,192 yards and 26 touchdowns this season. He also made 30 tackles, deflected six passes and intercepted two passes.

Hopkins is intent on leading the Avengers to their first playoff victory. Last season, in the franchise's first postseason game, the Avengers lost to Tampa Bay.

The Avengers are 0-1 against Dallas, losing, 60-57, on April 27 at Reunion Arena.

"We're just trying to keep our guys in shape this week with some quality work so we can really get after it next week," Avenger Coach Ed Hodgkiss said.

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Last season, the Avengers were the fifth-seeded team in the playoffs and did not have the benefit of a bye week for players nursing injuries.

Offensive specialist Chris Jackson and several linemen were among the Avengers who could have used the extra rest.

"We were beat up," said Jackson, who joined Hopkins on the All-Arena team this season. "This year, we have the same team chemistry and put ourselves in a better position to make sure everyone is healthy for our first playoff game."

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Defensive specialist Damen Wheeler was selected to the AFL's All-Rookie team after leading the Avengers with five interceptions and 15 pass deflections.

Wheeler, who played in college at Colorado, was a sixth-round draft pick by the San Diego Chargers in 2000 and played in five NFL games for Jacksonville in 2001.

He started in 15 games this season and was second on the team in tackles with 62.

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Hodgkiss said that receiver and defensive back Kevin Ingram will probably practice Saturday for the first time since fracturing a bone in his left leg on April 27 against Dallas.... John Elway's firing of the Colorado Crush coaching staff after a 2-14 season did not come as a complete surprise to former coach Bob Beers, who told the Denver Post that he saw the writing on the wall two or three weeks ago. "You know something's up when nobody talks to you or asks your advice anymore," Beers said. The Crush sold out all eight home games at the 17,434-seat Pepsi Center but did not win any of them.

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Arena Playoffs

WILD-CARD ROUND

Saturday's games

Las Vegas (11) at Arizona (6), noon

Georgia (12) at Dallas (5), noon

Sunday's games

Chicago (9) at New York (8), noon

Detroit (10) at Grand Rapids (7), noon

Note: The Avengers, as the fourth-seeded team, have a bye and will face the highest-seeded team remaining from the wild-card round in the quarterfinals on June 1.

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