Thursday, Feb. 10, 2005 | 10:27 a.m.
Rod Robinson has bounced through Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Memphis, Jacksonville and over to Spain chasing a pro football career.
The NFL, NFL Europe, af2, AFL -- Robinson has played his way through all the acronyms. So really, starting his first AFL game Friday night against New York at the Thomas & Mack Center is not going to faze Robinson.
"I don't really believe in pressure," Robinson said. "As long as I do what I do in practice, I feel I'll be successful."
Robinson will replace starting quarterback Clint Dolezel, who went on injured reserve Wednesday with a broken middle finger on his throwing hand. Dolezel will miss at least two weeks, but is likely to miss as much as a month.
Dolezel first injured the finger in the Jan. 30 season-opening win against Los Angeles when he banged it against a helmet while throwing a pass. He said the finger was "actually pretty good" during the first half of last week's 66-31 loss at San Jose, but Dolezel felt the finger worsen on a throw in the second half.
Dolezel will see his streak of 70 consecutive starts snapped, as he will be relegated to just his role as offensive coordinator against the Dragons (1-0).
"At times, I'm cool with it and I'm glad I can help Rod do a good job," Dolezel said. "Other times, I'm like, man, I'm miserable."
He'll have to focus on the cool times, helping Robinson get ready to play without a full-strength Marcus Nash. The Gladiators' standout offensive specialist injured his right knee crashing over the boards at San Jose, but an MRI revealed only a deep bruise and he expects to play this week.
With or without his best weapon, Robinson feels comfortable starting for the first time since his stint with Memphis of afl2 in 2003.
"I'm just going out there to perform, just do what I do," Robinson said.
That easygoing attitude will serve Robinson well, Dolezel feels.
"You wouldn't know if he's stressed out or not," Dolezel said. "That's how he is. And that's a good thing."
Robinson, who joined the Gladiators before the 2004 season, threw for 2,739 yards and 53 touchdowns with the Xplorers. An imposing runner at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, Robinson also rushed for seven scores, but Memphis went 6-10 in 2003.
Before Memphis, Robinson spent time as the third quarterback and on the practice squad with the Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars. He never threw an NFL pass, but did see limited action in 2001 with the Barcelona Dragons of NFL Europe.
Las Vegas also signed journeyman quarterback Craig Whelihan, who spent time with the Gladiators (1-1) in training camp, to serve as Robinson's backup. Gladiators head coach Ron James emphasized Wednesday that Robinson is his man.
"He's our No. 1. There's no doubt about it," James said. "It would take something catastrophic to get him out of the game."
James and Dolezel are scaling back the offense this week, a move that James said is as much in response to the team's offensive struggles as it is to Robinson's insertion. The Gladiators have scored 77 points in two games -- the worst total in the league for teams that have played twice.
"We've pared down the script a little bit," James said. "We just tried to make sure the plays are going to be efficient."
Dolezel noted Robinson's strengths as his powerful arm and running ability, both of which Dolezel expects to highlight in the game plan. James said the team will also look to the running game, where fullbacks Rodney Filer (4.0 yards per rush) and Frank Carter (three rushing touchdowns) are performing well.