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Arena

Lineman in shape for return

By FRANK PASTOR
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 12, 2003

At first, it happened once a day. Later, it was two or even three times. Nyle Wiren would be lying in bed and his right shoulder would pop out of its socket.

So, the Storm offensive/defensive lineman would pop it back in.

"It felt like it was falling right out," Wiren said.

He wore a brace for eight weeks to immobilize the shoulder. He had to learn to eat, write and brush his teeth with his left hand.

But that wasn't the worst part.

For Wiren, the most difficult thing was watching his teammates practice and play each week while he rehabilitated on the sideline.

"It gets kind of tough just watching everybody," Wiren said. "I finally want to get out there, put the pads on and play."

Wiren could get his chance this week.

After spending the first five weeks of the season on injured reserve and being inactive for Saturday's 52-27 win against Buffalo, the sixth-year lineman is expected to return for Sunday's game against Orlando.

"We'll look at it and see," coach Tim Marcum said. "He's been cleared, so it's a matter of, can he hold up? Is he in game shape? He's one of those guys that rarely gets out of shape.

"He's up to 270 pounds, and he's rehabbing twice a day. He's just as strong as he's ever been, and the answer (to whether he will play) is probably yes."

Wiren had a 70 percent labral tear during the 2002 preseason and played the season in pain. He had surgery in August.

Wiren, who returned to practice last week, says the shoulder "feels great."

"Probably, at this point, I'm in the best shape I've ever been in maybe since my first year of Arena football," he said.

Wiren's most important contributions could come on kickoff coverage and in the pass rush, Marcum said.

"If there's a spot, hopefully I can fill it," Wiren said.

HE'LL BE THERE: Bucs coach Jon Gruden accepted an invitation to perform the coin toss before Sunday's game, when the Storm will honor the Super Bowl champions.

LOOKING FOR HELP: Marcum said the Storm needs to find a two-way player who can stay with the league's top receivers.

Of the current wide receivers/defensive backs, only Keita Crespina fits that description. Clif Dell and Alvin Ashley are natural offensive players.

"That needs to be more of a defensive player," Marcum said. "We need to have a defensive player over there, so if you line up across from us and we start the quarter on defense we'll have three defensive guys in there."

Marcum said last week he planned to look more closely at Jonathan Ordway, but Ordway missed most of Tuesday's practice. Marcum said he will continue to work the phones in search of another defensive back.

GAINING NOTICE: Storm lineman Al Lucas was one of five players Sports Illustrated singled out as potential NFL players in an article on the Arena league in its March 10 issue. Lucas already has played in the NFL, spending the 2000 and 2001 seasons with Carolina.

The Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe selected him with their first pick (fourth overall) in the 2003 free-agent draft, but Lucas chose to stay with the Storm.

"He will get a chance (in the NFL)," Marcum said. "There's no doubt in my mind."

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