If you’re a loyal AFL fan who does like to follow the league regularly outside of Pittsburgh, you didn’t miss much in Week 5. In one of several scheduling oddities this season, the Power were, in fact, one of 10 teams with a bye last weekend; Arizona, Spokane, Chicago, Tulsa, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and Milwaukee were the others. Why is this worth noting? Because the Arena Football League hasn’t had a week with only four games on its schedule in 20 years…and back then there were only eight teams.
Having said that, some changes to the AFL schedule have been announced, and one of them affects the Power. Next week’s contest at the New Orleans Arena against the New Orleans VooDoo, originally scheduled for Friday, Apr. 22, has been moved to Thursday, Apr. 21. Kickoff is set for 7:00. The change was made to accommodate an NBA playoff game for the New Orleans Hornets.
Two other schedule changes have been made in the interest of facilitating basketball and (minor league) hockey playoff games. Philadelphia’s Week 6 game at San Jose has been moved from Saturday, Apr. 23 to Friday, Apr. 22 at 10:30 Eastern, while New Orleans’ game at Cleveland this approaching Saturday will now start at 7:30. The visiting VooDoo, by the way, are AFL’s only winless team at 0-4.
Fourth Time’s the Charm
Why are the VooDoo the only winless team in the AFL entering Week 6? Because the Kansas City Command got off the schneid in Week 5 with a 62-48 win against their visiting Central Division rivals, the Iowa Barnstormers, last Saturday. It was the franchise’s first win since May 22, 2008 in Philadelphia, back when they were known as the Kansas City Brigade, and first win at the Sprint Center since they beat the now-defunct Columbus Destroyers on May 10 of that year.
Kansas City wide receiver/linebacker Bradly Chavez won the league’s JLS Ironman of the Week award, and defensive back Sergio Gilliam the Riddell Defensive Player of the Week award for their performances in that game. Chavez caught three touchdown passes, and Gilliam made a team-record three interceptions.
The Ex-Buc Stops Here
Guys like Lynn Swann and Ron Jaworski who have stuck around in NFL markets to run AFL teams now have some company, as the Tampa Bay Storm, the franchise formerly known as the Pittsburgh Gladiators and the longest-living one in AFL history, has new leadership. Former NFL Pro Bowler and longtime Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Derrick Brooks was introduced as the Storm’s new president on Tuesday. Jeff Gooch, a former Bucs teammate of Brooks’, will be the team’s new vice president of football operations. According to the Storm, no changes to the present coaching staff will be made under the new management.
Better Late Than Never
Speaking of Tampa Bay, as we mentioned a while back, Friday will mark, at long last, the 2011 home opener for the Philadelphia Soul, and their opponent will be the Storm. Both teams are 1-3, having lost three straight after winning their respective openers, and the Soul sit in third place in the East Division of the American Conference, one game behind the Power. Philadelphia will display its ArenaBowl XXII banner for the first time at Wells Fargo Center…commemorating a championship the Soul won nearly three years ago. In fact, this will be the franchise’s first home game since July 12, 2008, when it beat Cleveland for the right to play in the title game.
If you’re looking for something to watch on DVR, the game will be featured live on NFL Network Friday at 8:00.
Elsewhere in the East…
One of the other teams in the Power’s division was in action Thursday night, and fortunately for their sake, Pittsburgh got a bit more wiggle room in the standings. The Milwaukee Mustangs suffered a 49-21 loss to the Dallas Vigilantes on the road, dropping them to 1-4, and keeping them at the bottom of the four-team East Division. The Power, at 2-2, currently sit second, behind the 3-0 Cleveland Gladiators, and one game ahead of Philadelphia.
Commish Stays Put
Arena Football League commissioner Jerry Kurz has agreed to a new multi-year contract that will keep him in that position through the 2013 season. The agreement was announced Wednesday, and ostensibly, it’s a good thing for die-hard fans of the sport, who have generally embraced him since he took over. Kurz, now in his second season as commissioner, has served the AFL in various capacities since its inception in 1987, and is generally credited with the successful reboot of the league after its economic collapse a few years ago.
The More, The Merrier
With no end to the NFL lockout in sight, two more NFL players have temporarily joined the Arena Football League. Kicker Fabrizio Scaccia, who is under a futures contract with the San Francisco 49ers, signed with the Arizona Rattlers after scoring 72 points as that team’s kicker last season. He was inspired by Cleveland Browns receiver Rod Windsor, who also joined the Rattlers and has racked up 372 yards and 13 touchdowns. Is it any coincidence they are one of only two undefeated AFL teams entering Week 6?
Fittingly, the AFL’s other undefeated team, the Cleveland Gladiators, now has two NFL players on its roster as well. Arizona Cardinals offensive lineman Cliff Louis signed with the Gladiators in a roster move announced Thursday afternoon. Louis also remains under contract with his NFL team.
The Power’s upset loss to Tulsa in Week 4 was enough to knock them out of the AFL coaches’ poll. After a bye week the Arizona Rattlers retain the top spot in the Week 6 poll, receiving 16 first-place votes. Pittsburgh’s upcoming opponent, the Jacksonville Sharks, is ranked third.
A Sobering Anniversary
This past Sunday marked the sixth anniversary of a date in Arena League history fans would probably just as soon forget. On April 10, 2005, Al Lucas of the Los Angeles Avengers became the first and only fatality the league has ever had. An innocent-looking tackle on a first-quarter kickoff of a game against the New York Dragons led to a spinal cord injury. Lucas was only 26 at the time.
By Matt Popchock