The Spokane Shock have a 23-man roster, subject to change of course, a starting quarterback, a handful of walking wounded and, oh, yeah, an Arena Football League game in three days.
Like all 15 teams in the new AFL, the Shock used a two-week training camp to formulate their roster. Monday brought game-week preparations with Milwaukee visiting Spokane at 8 p.m. on Friday.
“Camp went by really fast,” said defensive end Jeremy Geathers, who was in training camp with the New Orleans Saints two years ago and sat out last season with a calf muscle injury. “I’ve never played (an AFL game). The last time I played was with the Saints, but (arena football) is really exciting, really fast and it’s just fun.”
Kyle Rowley, who led Spokane to the ArenaCup title in 2006 and was the arenafootball2 offensive player of the year in 2008 with Arkansas, has been named the starting quarterback. Former Eastern Washington Eagle Erik Meyer is the back-up, but he impressed the coaching staff.
“Erik came in as a quarterback that has never played an arena game and he literally almost matched what Kyle did, and that to me is amazing because you just don’t see that,” offensive coordinator Matt Sauk said. “The biggest factor is Kyle has played for six years and Erik is still a rookie.”
Rowley’s experience will be important Friday because Milwaukee has a strong pass rush, head coach Rob Keefe said. Keefe noted that he won’t use a two-quarterback rotation, nor will he be afraid to make a change if circumstances warrant.
Rowley has passed for nearly 350 touchdowns and 17,000 yards in his arena career.
Defensive back Alex Teems (hamstring), a Washington State University product who played for the Shock in 2007 and AFL Cleveland in 2008, will likely miss the season opener.
Several others were sidelined or missed portions of practice, including offensive linemen Ed Ta’amu and Chris Pino. Receiver Markee White practiced with a red jersey (off limits to contact) after sitting out four days with a concussion.
Other than Teems, Keefe hopes everyone else will be available Friday.
Wide receiver Huey Whittaker was absent as he wrapped up a three-day tryout with Calgary of the CFL. He’s expected to be at practice today and play against Milwaukee.
Spokane recently traded ex-WSU defensive back Chris Martin to Chicago for offensive lineman Rob McMackin in case injuries require adjustments up front. McMackin arrives today.
To reach the 23-man roster, Spokane released OL Devin Clark, WR Greg Orton and DB Chris LeFlore on Sunday.
“I’ve been cut before; everybody in this building has probably been cut at one point,” said linebacker Kevin McCullough, a two-year Shock veteran. “It’s a tough situation and I know exactly what they’re feeling, but those guys are going to be playing on other teams. That’s just the kind of talent we have in Spokane.”
First-year head coach Keefe said cut-down days were “probably the toughest thing I’ve had to do in football. There’s an hour or two where you feel terrible and the conversation is very hard, but at the end of the day I feel OK because it was the right decision for the team.”
Defensive back William Mulder and wide receiver Quorey Payne will handle kick returns. Both have extensive af2 experience. Spokane probably won’t practice in the Arena before Friday, so pre-game warm-ups will be the return specialists first chance to field kicks off the nets. … Spokane has signed a kicker with AFL, af2 and UFL experience, but the paperwork won’t go through the league office until today. … The Shock unveiled a remodeled Web site Monday (spokaneshock.com). … Plenty of tickets remain, including numerous seats in lower sections, for Friday’s game.