Arrow-right Camera
Spokane Empire

Shock begin practicing with playoffs in mind

Blake Bolles, twirling football, and Arvell Wilson (1) are vying for a backup quarterback position with Spokane Shock. (Tyler Tjomsland)
Blake Bolles, twirling football, and Arvell Wilson (1) are vying for a backup quarterback position with Spokane Shock. (Tyler Tjomsland)

The Spokane Shock players were back in full pads Tuesday morning, but not in their comfort zone.

That was stripped away last season, the first one in franchise history that didn’t end in the Arena Football League playoffs.

Eight months later, everyone was happy to be back on the turf at the team’s training facility in Spokane Valley – none more so than quarterback Erik Meyer, whose injury in the opening game helped define the 2012 season. Meyer was lost to a concussion and its complications – for the season, as it turned out – and the Shock finished 10-8 but in last place in their division.

On Tuesday he was upright and upbeat about his third season in Spokane.

“I’m feeling good,” said Meyer, whose 2011 season also was cut short by injury. “It’s only the third day of practice and the first day in pads, but it felt good. We’re just making sure the guys are clicking, making sure everyone’s on the same page.”

Second-year head coach Andy Olson feels the same way. The new team motto – “All In’ – addressed the need for togetherness and mental toughness – the latter trait missing at times in Olson’s first season.

“Not having enough mental toughness, that comes from youth,” Olson said. “Last year that cost us our opening game, and a game in the middle of the season.”

Of course, “All In” will apply to fewer and fewer players by the time the Shock open the season March 24 at Cleveland. Thirty-five were competing Tuesday for 20 roster spots. That included three quarterbacks, but Olson left no doubt that Meyer is the starter under center.

“Erik has always looked good, and I’ve never seen him look bad,” Olson said. “He’s never been an inefficient quarterback, and he’s always been smart and made good throws and good decisions.”

Meyer, who turned 30 in December, did all of that on Tuesday, delivering crisp passes on all receiver routes during a high-energy practice.

“It’s been a good three days, the chemistry is definitely clicking,” Meyer said. “The receivers, we have some big guys, and the small guys who are hungry.”

The Shock also have a pair of tall, hungry young quarterbacks to back up Meyer. Arvell Nelson, a 6-foot-5, 230-pounder out of Texas Southern, and Blake Boles, a 6-3, 205-pounder from Northwest Missouri State, showed talent and potential – mostly the latter.

“They’re both young and they’re learning,” Olson said. “Both have a lot of potential, but learning the offenses and reading the defense is another story.”

Click here to comment on this story »