TAMPA BAY – The team wrapped up training camp today at Skyway Park in Tampa with a scaled-back practice session and a bag of mixed emotions.
The focus of today’s practice was to teach the team special plays that will enable the offense to confuse their opponent’s defensive scheme. “You know, special plays are an important part of this game,” said head coach Dave Ewart. “We use these drills because they’re going to see this come game time.”
Coach Ewart further explained that the drills benefit the defense because it will help them to better understand coverage when faced with these situations.
At the end, Coach Ewart brought the guys in for a team huddle telling them their sole focus should be on the first game of the season. “You’re a great group of guys,” said Ewart. I’m proud of each and every one of you.”
Emotions were running high all day. “We all have high expectations,” said rookie John-Kevin Dolce. “We’re all nervous, but we feel good at the same time.”
Rookie Prechae Rodriguez added, “We all feel confident, but it’s in the coaches’ hands at this point. Everyone gave a 110% effort, and when you put in the work, you really feel like you can succeed.”
After practice, vice president of football operations Jeff Gooch took the time to address the team about what they should expect heading into tomorrow’s cut day.
Looking Ahead: The team will have player meetings on Friday and a body maintenance day on Saturday. The season opening roster is due to the League office by 5:00 PM CT on Saturday, March 3. The first practice of the season will take place Monday, March 5 at Skyway Park in Tampa.
Comings and Goings: Defensive lineman Paul Griffin was acquired by the Storm today. Griffin (6-foot-2, 280 lbs., Florida State) played with the Seminoles from 2006 – 2008. The former Seminole capped off his college career as the starting defensive tackle for the 2008 Florida State Champs Sports Bowl team. Griffin spent the past two seasons with the Orlando Predators where he recorded totals of 43.5 tackles, four sacks, and an interception.
Coaches Perspective: “We have a good group of guys here,” said Ewart talking about what he saw during the past few weeks of training camp. “They all came out to compete and are driven to that next level.”
Quotes of the day: “We’re like a tight knit family; cut day is going to be tough for everyone,” said rookie Thor Merrow talking about tomorrow’s cut day. “This is the best camp I’ve been a part of.”
Player Perspective: While nobody is safe when it comes to cut day, the veterans seem to like what they see heading into the season.
“I saw guys out there giving everything they’ve got,” said third-year defensive back Erick McIntosh. “We’ve all learned from our experiences last year and we’re looking to grow.”
Fifth-year offensive lineman Tom Kaleita continued this sentiment. “We all had some question marks coming into camp,” said Kaleita. “I think they’ve all been answered. We expect big things this season.”
Player Spotlight: Rookie defensive lineman Jimmy Saddler-McQueen enters his first season with the Storm. Saddler-McQueen (6-foot-3, 290 lbs., Texas A&M–Kingsville) played with the Javelinas from 2006-2009 where he was a two-time All-Lone Star Conference South Division selection. During his time in college he recorded 154 tackles, five sacks, and 12 pass breakups. Saddler-McQueen also spent time in the NFL with the Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Rams.