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Field of Dreams: LFL, Bliss back at Sears Centre, without the lace

Heather Furr quarterback LFL Chicago Bliss which has its seasopener April 19 Sears Centre Hoffman Estates.
Phocourtesy Chicago Bliss

Heather Furr, quarterback of the LFL Chicago Bliss, which has its season opener April 19 at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates. Photo courtesy of Chicago Bliss

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Updated: May 8, 2013 6:23AM

The Chicago Bliss returns to the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates to play the Los Angeles Temptation Friday, April 19 — with new uniforms in a league with a new name.

The former Lingerie Football League is now the Legends Football League. With the only video game based on a women’s sports league, MTV Networks game coverage, and play now in Canada and Australia and in Europe in 2015, the Las Vegas-based organization is rebranding itself, claiming its “focus has to be the sport and our amazing athletes,” as it expands across the planet.

An LFL press release states that “performance wear replaces all lingerie aspects of uniform.” Also, logos no longer feature “any sexy female figures,” shoulder pads have been redesigned for greater protection, and the league tag line has been changed from “True Fantasy Football” to “Women of the Gridiron.”

One of those women is Bliss quarterback and safety Heather Furr.

“We actually don’t have our new uniforms yet and won’t have them until game day,” Furr said last week. “There are only a couple differences in the uniform. There is basically nothing dangling from them anymore. They have taken off the lingerie aspect but kept them the same otherwise.”

Furr is going into her third LFL season with the Bliss.She also played in Canada last fall with the Saskatoon Sirens as a safety and wide receiver.

“Saskatoon was a great experience. Flying out every two weeks wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, and the coaches were great keeping me in the loop with our game plan for upcoming opponents, changes in offensive plays, and check calls,” she said.

QB talk

Furr knows of what she speaks.

“I love watching football and always have. I’ve always understood the game, but now I look for the little nuances I never knew about. Quarterback signals, motioning offensive players, checks on defense, blitzing schemes, and teams’ overall strengths and weaknesses,” she said.

She once met former Baltimore Ravens QB and current TV analyst Trent Dilfer at an EA Sports video game release party for an upcoming game.

“He was so down to earth and loved talking to me, quarterback talk. I think he was a little surprised by how much I knew and the things we were running on offense. It was a great experience for me because it really showed how the knowledge of the game can bring together two people of such differing skill levels. It was amazing,” Furr said.

Furr graduated from Plainfield High School in the far southwest suburbs where she played four sports. She also taught at an elementary school in Plainfield from 2007 to 2009.

“I left teaching to pursue a possibility of playing basketball overseas,” she said.

“I was on a semi-professional basketball team and had an agent looking for teams for me to go to. It was at the same time that the upcoming school year was quickly approaching. I had also been struggling with the idea of continuing to teach. I love the kids and the great rewards teaching gave me, but I wasn’t happy with where I was. I needed to make a change. After not ending up going overseas, and football was the next thing that popped up in my life. I wasn’t done competing and this became the perfect opportunity for me.”

That happened as a friend of Furr’s knew one of the Bliss offensive coaches for the 2010 season.

“He asked her if she had any athletic friends that she thought should try out and she came straight to me. I was extremely hesitant, and it was a very last minute decision, but I showed up to tryouts,” Furr said.

Apparently a fast learner, Furr went on to become the league’s MVP for the 2010-2011 season. She’s also seen her fair share of injuries that go along with football.

“My first season I partially tore my ACL, PCL, and had other damage to my left knee. Then my first all star game I separated my AC joint in my right shoulder. Being a right-handed quarterback, my coach was not happy about this. And now this past winter I dislocated and fractured a finger. Most recently I tore my PCL in my right knee. This isn’t a sport for the weak. You have to get through these injuries, or you will just be done,” she said.

Turf burn

Another occupational hazard - especially given that the uniforms look more like women’s Olympic sand volleyball ones than NFL gear — is artificial turf burn.

“The turf burn is terrible. You don’t notice it too much during the game because you are so distracted, but it burns and swells and scabs. It’s not cute and leaves scars. There’s really no way that we can lessen the amount of turf burns because we have so much skin exposed. It’ll be nearly impossible to lessen the turf burns without adding a lot of material to our uniforms,” Furr said.

The team did play outdoors for a time, at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, before coming back to the Sears Centre. Furr said the biggest difference between outdoor and indoor play “is the walls. The walls are not very forgiving. There is a set out of bounds. Outside you could push someone out of bounds, and the field felt much larger. A couple of other differences is that the outdoor facility has grass, which is so much nicer on your body when you are tackled. The turf on indoor fields hurts and hurts bad. Also, at our indoor facility the fans are just so much closer and therefore so much more involved,” she said.

Aside from the obvious, novice fans will probably notice that the LFL also differs from the NFL in the way ball-carriers are brought to the ground.

“Gang tackling is the best type of tackling in our eyes,” Furr said. “We have been playing football for one to three years of our lives, whereas the men you see with one-on-one tackles have been playing 10 or more years. Our tackling is improving, but you can’t expect us to know every intricacy of the game in the extremely short time that we have all been playing,” she said.

Furr works as a bartender and a personal trainer in Chicago, and practices with the Bliss two or three times a week, works out and trains on her own, and studies for the game.

“It’s a lot of work outside of practice, as it should be. It’s a huge commitment,” she said. “I love what the game brings out of me. I get so focused and so intense. I am a competitor and I hate to lose.”

Furr also is optimistic about the upcoming Bliss season and what the LFL might mean for women in sports.

“I think there are a good amount of opportunities in sports careers, but we don’t get paid nearly as much as men. To be honest, I really hope that this league and playing football help to bring light to female athletes, our athletic ability and ability to adapt to things we have never had the opportunity to really participate in,” Furr said.

Online: LFL press conference about 2013 seasons —

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