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Arena League

In game, as in season, big finish falls short

By FRANK PASTOR
Published June 9, 2004

No team had better closing speed. Unfortunately for the Storm, few were slower out of the gate.

As coach and general manager Tim Marcum looked back Tuesday on his 16th Arena Football League season and 10th in Tampa Bay, he was disappointed first and foremost that the Storm failed to defend its ArenaBowl championship.

But Marcum was encouraged by the final month and a half in which Tampa Bay dug out of a team-worst 3-7 hole with six consecutive victories to extend its league-record playoff streak to 14 seasons.

"While it was an unsuccessful season by our standards, you look at it and say, "Hey, there were some good things that happened,' " Marcum said. "A group of guys came together for a purpose, and they worked their (butts) off and had a measure of success by getting in the playoffs."

The Storm's 56-52 quarterfinal loss to San Jose seemed to mirror its season.

Tampa Bay fell behind by 31 in the third quarter before outscoring the SaberCats 27-0 in the fourth. If not for a failed onside kick in the final minute or three missed extra points, the Storm might still be playing.

"I think that there were times we played like a championship team, and I really feel like if we could have won that game in San Jose, I thought we could win the championship," Marcum said. "I really did. I feel like we line up well against everybody else."

Marcum thought enough of what he saw in the second half of the season that he'd like to keep much of it together. He hopes to return the secondary and receiving corps intact and add a couple of pass rushers.

"I'd like to sign everybody and sign some new guys, too, to try to help us get over the top," he said.

Offensive/defensive lineman Nyle Wiren and receiver/linebacker Lawrence Samuels, both on the All-Arena second team, are under contract for next year. So are offensive specialist Freddie Solomon; linemen Kelvin Kinney, Louis Williams and Rod Williams; receiver/defensive back Clif Dell; fullback/linebacker David White and defensive specialist Shevin Smith.

All others, including receiver/defensive back and All-Arena pick T.T. Toliver, quarterback Shane Stafford, receiver/linebacker David Saunders and defensive specialists Jonathan Ordway and Tramain Jones, are eligible for free agency.

In accordance with league rules, former USF quarterback Marquel Blackwell was released from the practice squad and became a free agent. Marcum hopes to have him back, too.

"I would expect he'd be back," Marcum said. "I think he learned a lot. ... He's a good guy to be around."

The Storm has until the end of July to sign its free agents. It cannot negotiate with other free agents until the fall.

Fullback/linebacker Basil Proctor and kicker Ignacio Brache, who missed six extra points in the final two games, will not be back, Marcum said.

RECOGNIZED: Orlando's Jay Taylor was named kicker of the year after setting a league record with 10 consecutive field goals in April. He made 18 of 25 (72 percent) field goals and 79 of 85 (93 percent) extra points for 133 points.

Chicago's John Moyer, whose 10 sacks led the league, was lineman of the year. He had three fumble recoveries, 111/2 tackles for loss, four blocked kicks, an interception and 31 tackles.

GETTING CARDED: The league agreed to a multiyear partnership with trading card company Upper Deck. Current and former Arena stars, including NFL quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Tommy Maddox, will be included in an upcoming set, along with arenafootball2 players.

[Last modified June 9, 2004, 04:22:36]


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