Call it "J.J. Raterink's Great Alaskan Adventure."
The longtime Quad-City Steamwheelers quarterback has joined former Q-C coach Sean Ponder in Fairbanks, Alaska, after requesting and receiving his release from the Wheelers this week.
Raterink said he left the Quad-Cities with no ill will, and even stressed that he plans to return at the conclusion of the Fairbanks Grizzlies' Indoor Football League season.
He said he simply felt ready to play football, and that was not an option here after he was placed on the four-week injured reserve list with concussionary symptoms last week.
"I started feeling pretty darned good after that and didn't really feel like I needed the four weeks that the IR calls for," he said. "The thing to do was to come to this league. It just seemed like a good fit."
In addition to Ponder, Chris Jahnke, a 2007 Steamwheelers lineman and Raterink's offseason Q-C roommate, is in Fairbanks. So are former
Q-C linemen Andy Endemann and Ryan Pahua.
Plus, he said, "I thought 'I've never been to Alaska. It's kind of a good excuse to go up there and see it.'"
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Raterink joins a 5-7 team that already has qualified for the IFL playoffs. He said he doesn't expect to supplant season-long starter Justin Rummel, but does hope to learn the nuances of a slightly different indoor game.
That could come in handy in the event the Steamwheelers don't return for 2010 season or, he said, switch over to the IFL.
"After this season is over, I fully intend on moving back to the Quad-Cities," he said. "It was tough to leave, but I'm not leaving. I'm just going to visit for a little while, learn something new and come back and have a few more stories about my minor league football career."
Brian Zbydniewski will make his third start Saturday at the i wireless Center, where the Steamwheelers will try and end a six-game losing streak vs. Manchester.