Life was good for Chris Pino. Newly married. Told his wife he was done with arena football after the 2011 season. Job at the Grand Wailea Resort in Maui. Dropped some pounds. Played a little flag football.
Then why is Pino back for a third stint with the Spokane Shock?
“I miss the game of football,” he said. “Working at a resort, it wasn’t the same. I was playing in a flag football league and that wasn’t the same. They didn’t allow hitting and you had to play soft. I don’t know how to play soft.
“I’m turning 30 this summer and I still feel there are a few more years in me. I’ve always told myself if I’m healthy and can still move I’ll keep playing football. My body will tell me if I’m done.”
And yes, he had his wife’s permission to resume his career.
“When ‘Rigs’ (general manager Ryan Rigmaiden) called, she knew how much I missed it and thank goodness she’s supportive,” Pino said. “She said, ‘Go play.’ ”
Pino arrived in Spokane late Wednesday night, went through a couple of walk-through practices and started on the offensive line in Friday’s 68-62 win over New Orleans. For just the second time this season, Spokane didn’t allow a sack and Pino gained 23 yards on a screen pass.
The 6-foot-5 Pino is listed at 320 pounds, but he’s actually just less than 300. He worked out in Hawaii, but it was more about dropping weight instead of providing protection on 30-40 pass plays per game.
Pino initially thought he might be a spectator last Friday, but he was informed the day before that he would be in the lineup. That meant a trip to the store to buy some game shoes.
“I’m in good shape, just not great football shape,” he said. “I was kind of worried, because you never want to go into a game unprepared. My first couple steps were kind of rusty, but the muscle memory started coming back.”
Pino played tight end in high school so his pass-catching ability isn’t a fluke. He had a fingertip catch in the end zone during Wednesday’s practice.
“He’s not only big and strong, he’s athletic,” coach Andy Olson said. “It’s nice to have a threat outside my receivers.”
Changing faces: The Shock won’t be as busy as last week when they made 15 roster moves, but they’ve made a few changes.
Offensive lineman Ryan Cave has been suspended by the team for two weeks for attitude reasons, Olson said. Defensive lineman Brandon Sharpe, who was eligible to come off a one-game AFL suspension, has left the team and returned home. Offensive lineman Shannon Tevaga (hand) will be activated and in the starting lineup for Friday’s game against Philadelphia.
Several injury concerns remain, particularly at receiver and defensive line. Brandon Thompkins, who left Friday’s game with a hamstring injury, didn’t practice and will be a game-time decision. Adron Tennell, suspended for last Friday’s game, is battling a knee injury, but he said he’ll play Friday.
Poll position: Spokane (4-4) returned to the coaches’ rankings at No. 10. Philadelphia (7-2), Spokane’s opponent Friday in the Arena, is No. 2. Three of the top four are Spokane’s West Division rivals – No. 1 San Jose, No. 3 Arizona and No. 4 Utah.