- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2006

The Maryland football team couldn’t spend New Year’s Day playing in a bowl game. It instead received the next best thing.

The Terrapins will spend Christmas in Orlando, Fla., as part of their preparation for the Dec. 29 Champs Sports Bowl, a decision coach Ralph Friedgen revealed yesterday.

Friedgen said Sunday the Terps might depart Christmas night, but there were logistical hurdles — notably reduced practice time for the game against Purdue — to overcome.

Instead, the Terps (8-4) will convene Dec. 22 in Orlando and practice the next two days, then take Christmas off before continuing preparation for the game Dec. 26. Friedgen already plans to practice through Tuesday, then take a week off for exams. The Terps will resume work Dec. 20 and Dec. 21 in College Park before leaving for the game.

Friedgen said he discussed the situation with the team and encountered little resistance to celebrating the holiday away from home.

“We were going to be traveling on Christmas day anyway,” linebacker Erin Henderson said. “You might be home for the morning, but you had to be back here eventually. It’s one of those things where you might as well go ahead and get down there and get the traveling part out of it.”

It will give Maryland, which will not leave Orlando until Dec. 30, some extra time away from home. Players are already building travel itineraries since they have the option to fly with the team or arrange their own transportation.

It’s led to some ambitious planning from a few Terps players who are eager to spend late December in a sun-soaked city rather than a colder climate.

“It’s going to be nice,” said guard Andrew Crummey, an Ohio native who will remain in Florida until Jan. 1. “I’ve already got my tickets, so I can stay there as long as possible.”

Players also have incentive to make the long drive to Florida since they receive between $600 and $700 for this trip to cover any transportation costs. Many players will chip in for gasoline and take turns driving during a trip that could approach 14 hours, then pocket the rest for other purposes.

“I’m going to do my Christmas shopping after the bowl game,” fullback Cory Jackson said with a grin.

No changes yet

Friedgen, who has handled the offensive coordinator duties this season, said he would not decide whether he will hire another assistant until after the bowl game.

Friedgen spent the season calling plays and running quarterbacks meetings after Charlie Taaffe resigned in February. The extra work eroded any available time for Friedgen, who was visibly worn out when the regular season ended.

“I probably want to give it some time and see who is available and how I feel about it,” Friedgen said. “Whatever way I go, it’ll be easier than it was this year. I think I’ve learned to budget my time a little bit more. … Whatever way I decide, I’m going to reflect some. I’m not going to make a hasty decision on that.”

Henderson hurting

Henderson had surgery Thursday at Baltimore’s Kernan Hospital for an infection in his left arm, and Friedgen hoped he would return to practice by Saturday.

The sophomore said he started feeling pain after the Terps’ Nov. 25 game against Wake Forest, and his arm swelled up last week.

Meanwhile, Friedgen said fullback Tim Cesa (lingering effects of Oct. 28 concussion) was the only player likely to miss to the bowl game.

Gearing up

One of the luxuries of playing in the postseason is receiving gifts from a bowl game. Friedgen could have picked the items but instead deferred to the Terrapin Council, a group of players he uses as a conduit on several matters.

“I don’t know what kids like today,” Friedgen said. “Instead of complaining to me, they can complain to their teammates.”

It’s unlikely there will be too many problems with the final selections. Henderson said each player will receive a 15-inch TV with DVD player and a watch from the bowl game, along with a beach towel, a welcome bag and perhaps the most flexible item available — a gift card.

“It’s really hard to please everybody,” Henderson said. “We have 100-some people on our team, and everybody wants different things. I think that’s the best way for people to take care of what they need to take care of, be it Christmas gifts or buying something for themselves or buying something for their parents.”

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