Cory Ross feels like an expectant mother, having talked about his new "baby" since mid-August.

The arrival finally comes tonight for the Quad City Steamwheelers coach when his reborn indoor pro football team opens training camp at the Ambrose Dome.

The Steamwheelers were last on the field for the 2009 season-finale, before the 10-year, title-winning franchise folded financially along with their league, arenafootball2.

Ross, who played in the NFL for the Baltimore Ravens, is part of a Champions Indoor Football revival funded by a group headed up by Doug Bland, an Illinois native who made his name nationally in sports marketing for entities such as NASCAR.

"I've been in town now for a while, and have gotten to meet a lot of fans and sponsors, getting to know the community and some great people," Ross said. "I've also been able to speak in front of a lot of groups, helping to create the buzz and excitement that the Steamwheelers are back.

"But now, finally, it truly starts. We finally get to see a product on the field."

Out-of-town talents began arriving Friday, the deadline to report Sunday with local hopefuls for physicals and orientation. The first team meeting (6 p.m.) and practice (8:30 p.m.) follow tonight.

The CIF-maximum 35 players are expected in camp, with two unsigned kickers joining 33 position players signed between October and December.

Practices are planned each night this week from 8:30 to approximately 10:30, with Ross working on a scrimmage or joint practice with another team Saturday, followed by an off-day Sunday.

Workouts resume next Monday, with the first practice at the TaxSlayer Center scheduled for Feb. 21. The non-conference home opener at the downtown Moline arena is Sunday, Feb. 25 at 2 p.m. against Chicagoland's Midway Marauders.

"The first two weeks of camp are a pure evaluation period," Ross said. "We need to identify our starters for the 25th as well as the guys we expect to be part of our 25-man roster this season."

League rules require teams to file their season-starting roster 48 hours before their CIF opener, which for the Steamwheelers is March 18 at Sioux City.

However, Ross plans to make those 10 camp cuts soon after the game on Feb. 25, so his team can begin game preparations on Feb. 28 when practices resume.

"We have time if we need it to make a decision," Ross said. "But the sooner we set the roster, the more time we get to gel and prepare and the better we will be in the long run."

That makes the Feb. 25 game essentially a preseason game by NFL standards.

"We're definitely treating it as a real game, though. Our fans haven't had indoor football for about a decade, and this will be a chance to show them what we're all about, so we're going to be aggressive," said Ross, whose club's CIF home opener is March 25.

"But we're also going to use it to help our evaluations, so we will play a lot of combinations and give a lot guys opportunities to make this team. There are practice players and game players, and this will help us find out who performs when the lights are on."

Among the locals bidding to make the season-starting 25-man roster and 21-man game-day lineup is quarterback Tanner Matlick (Mercer County); lineman Tre Weeks (United Township) and Ryan Brophy (Davenport West); and a quartet of Davenport Central alums in running back Zach Minch and wideouts Keyvan Rudd, Caleb Buehl and Marcus Terry.

The local small colleges also are represented in Weeks (St. Ambrose), lineman Jonas Robbins (Augustana) and wideout Matt Shepherd (Monmouth).

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