Nothing dull about the Spokane Shock on or off the field this season – and it could get more interesting over the next few days.
During that time frame, the Shock should learn the extent of starting quarterback Erik Meyer’s shoulder injury and whether Tuesday’s announcement that the UFL is delaying the start of its season leads to the return of three former players, including standout receivers Greg Orton and Markee White.
“Our team could be entirely different on Thursday, we don’t know,” head coach Rob Keefe said.
Meyer’s right arm was in a sling and he was icing his shoulder during Tuesday’s practice. He won’t play against Jacksonville on Friday. He’s awaiting the results of X-rays to determine the severity of the injury.
“The deeper we go (in the playoffs), the better chance I have of coming back,” Meyer said.
Kyle Rowley will start Friday. Keefe hasn’t decided on a backup, though the team activated Steven Sheffield from injured reserve, along with receiver Raul Vijil. Randy Hymes, whose remarkable touchdown catch on the final play lifted Spokane past San Jose on Saturday, played quarterback at Grambling and handled some snaps for Bossier/Shreveport last season when an injury sidelined Raymond Philyaw.
Offensive lineman Ben Ossai, Orton and White recently left Spokane for UFL destinations. AFL commissioner Jerry Kurz estimated that 12 former AFL players are on UFL rosters.
“I would imagine the UFL could say no, but the situation is they’re not being paid, they’re not being fed and they’re not in camp,” Kurz said. “I can’t imagine the UFL keeping players from being able to make money and stay in shape.”
Kurz cautioned, however, that a Pittsburgh player who left for the UFL was turned down by the Power when he expressed interest in returning.
Keefe said it’s not a given that Ossai, Orton and White will return to the Shock, who retained the players’ rights when they departed for the UFL.
“We’ve won five of our last six,” Keefe said. “You tell me who I take out of the lineup, with Vijil coming back? We’ll take it as it comes.”
Shock linebacker Beau Bell was in the process of joining AFL Las Vegas, but his plans changed when the UFL announced it was delaying its season opener from Aug. 13 to mid- September.
“I got halfway there and then I heard the chatter,” Bell said. “I can’t really worry about it. I’m just glad I’m still here and playing football.”
It’s been reported that the NFL is on the verge of a new collective bargaining agreement. That, too, would have an impact several AFL rosters. Spokane has two players with NFL contracts, Keefe said. One is defensive lineman Ayanga Okpokowuruk (Giants). Keefe declined to name the second player. Arizona would likely lose standout receiver Rod Windsor.
Vijil is practicing after a four-week stint on injured reserve with a strained hamstring.
“As the season has progressed I’ve felt a little better and a little better,” said Vijil, who came back in time for training camp after undergoing ACL surgery last September. “The doctor said it’s common with an ACL injury to have (a hamstring issue). … “The rest and time was not only good for my hamstring, but my knee and the rest of my body.”