It was a long offseason for the Spokane Shock, who didn’t reach their ultimate goal 5½ months ago but believe they have a blueprint to finish the job in 2014.
Spokane went 15-5 last season, falling to Arizona 65-57 in the National Conference championship, one step away from the ArenaBowl. Arizona went on to defeat Philadelphia to earn its second straight championship.
“I still have that taste in my mouth from the last game,” receiver Adron Tennell said. “I have a lot of guys over there in Arizona talking smack so we’re going to show them what’s going on this year.”
It was a successful season on numerous fronts but Spokane was left unfulfilled in the playoffs. The Shock opened training camp last week with plenty of motivation.
“We have just one goal,” quarterback Erik Meyer said. “Win the ArenaBowl, get a ring. Anything less than that doesn’t meet our expectations.”
Spokane had costly penalties, numerous dropped passes and two momentum-changing turnovers in a scoreless third period as Arizona took control.
“The biggest thing is discipline. In this game experience is everything and we were a little inexperienced last year,” head coach Andy Olson said. “Last year we were in the bottom half of the league in penalties. That’s something that really hurt us against Arizona. We allowed them to get back in the game because we jumped off-side on fourth down. We have to be more disciplined.”
Spokane has a solid group of returning players, led by Meyer, the reigning Arena Football League MVP. Olson said Meyer is “probably in the best shape I’ve seen him.”
“I think he can still be more clutch in the big games, the ones we have to win, the Arizonas and the San Joses,” Olson said. “He’s been near flawless but he hasn’t just quite taken that next step. It was really just his rookie year last year. He just needs to see more. He saw a lot last year, he needed to go through some of the pain and some of the success in order to be a better quarterback.”
Meyer has familiar targets in Tennell and Brandon Thompkins, who had 913 receiving yards in 11 games. The Shock acquired veteran receiver Mike Washington from Pittsburgh. He averaged 121.7 receptions and 1,482 yards over three seasons with the Power.
“He’s fast, shifty, quick,” Meyer said. “He’s got a lot of experience and you can see it on the field.”
Not quite whole
Spokane isn’t quite at full strength. Veteran offensive linemen Patrick Afif (still recovering from a knee injury) and Ryan Cave (finishing school) are expected to join the team soon. Chris Pino has opted to retire.
Defensive back Paul Stephens, who led Spokane with 12 interceptions in 2013, is sidelined for 3 to 4 weeks after having surgery on his right wrist.
Former general manager Ryan Rigmaiden is helping out at training camp before moving on to his new position as director of U.S. scouting for the CFL BC Lions.
Dodd-Masters joins coaching staff
Ruschard Dodd-Masters is moving from the playing field to the coaching staff. The former Shock DB, who had two interceptions last season, will coach the secondary.
“He’s an energetic guy,” Olson said. “You want that energy and that attitude and he’s always positive, that’s what I really like about him.”