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Shock cutting ties with McCullough

After intercepting a pass, Kevin McCullough dives for the end zone to score for the Shock. (Colin Mulvany)
After intercepting a pass, Kevin McCullough dives for the end zone to score for the Shock. (Colin Mulvany)

Popular player not the versatile player needed at ‘Jack’

The Spokane Shock are cutting ties with ‘The Chainsaw.’

Shock head coach Rob Keefe on Tuesday informed Kevin McCullough, one of the team’s most popular players and a 2½-year starter at linebacker, that he will be traded or released. The move comes just days after McCullough’s first interception of the season, which he returned for a touchdown in Spokane’s win over former No. 1 Jacksonville.

“It’s one of the toughest things I’ve had to do and I know I’m going to get nailed for doing it, but I just have to do what’s best for the team,” Keefe said. “Kevin’s a great person, but from a coaching standpoint winning is the goal.”

McCullough, nicknamed “The Chainsaw,” had 15 interceptions in 2008-09 when the Shock went 37-3 in arenafootball2. He was “floored and just completely blindsided” upon hearing the news from Keefe. “I felt honestly a little betrayed by an organization I’ve done a lot for, not just on the field but off.”

Keefe said the move was necessary for roster versatility reasons and improving production at the ‘Jack’ linebacker position. In 2008, a rule change allowed the Jack to play sideline to sideline, no deeper than 5 yards from the line of scrimmage, instead of being confined to a box the width of the tackles. With that change and the move up to the Arena Football League, Keefe said the position requires more speed and coverage skills.

“McCullough has done nothing wrong, he’s done everything we’ve asked of him, but we just need a guy that go faster left and right and change directions quicker,” Keefe said.

Teams are limited to suiting up 20 players, which leaves Spokane vulnerable if there’s an injury at defensive back, Keefe added. Currently, a wide receiver would have to play DB, which takes away from the Shock’s league-leading offense and impacts the defense, he said.

Keefe anticipates Antwan Marsh, a 6-foot-3, 210-pounder who played safety in college, to start at Jack against Orlando on June 12. Marsh signed with Spokane on May 19. Another option is Ruschard Dodd-Masters, who signed last week. If one of those players had to be inserted at defensive back, receiver Huey Whittaker would fill in at Jack linebacker.

“What we’d like to do is have a Jack that has the capabilities of playing defensive back if case a DB goes down,” Keefe said. He pointed out that former Shock defensive back Sergio Gilliam was recently traded from Arizona to Oklahoma City and had two interceptions playing Jack linebacker in his first game.

McCullough said he hopes to be traded to Arizona, where he would be reunited with ex-University of Cincinnati teammate Nick Davila and a couple of other former Spokane players. Keefe dismissed Arizona as an option because the Rattlers are one of Spokane’s division rivals.

McCullough, nicknamed ‘The Chainsaw’, received AFL honors for the catch of the week for his one-handed interception against Jacksonville.

“It makes it hard, with a lot of friends that are like family up here,” he said. “I appreciate everything the fans have done and all the support they’ve shown.

“My agent and I are talking to teams, seeing what can be done. We’re also talking with Spokane and trying to get them on board with helping me out. As of right now, I don’t know where that will be. It’s just going to be a long day of trying to make it happen.”

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