TAMPA — With the Arena Football League season fast approaching, the Storm is putting the finishing touches on training camp in advance of Saturday's home game against Jacksonville.
The Storm, 8-10 last season, would have qualified for the postseason with a win in the season finale, and expectations are high that a retooled roster can get Tampa Bay to the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
Comings: The Storm was very active in the offseason, acquiring nice pieces on both sides of the ball. The biggest signing is former Florida State QB Adrian McPherson, 29, who returns to the AFL after a five-year run in the Canadian Football League. The Bradenton native also played three seasons in the AFL, earning rookie of the year in 2004 (61 TD passes, 19 TD runs, five interceptions).
McPherson has new weapons in former FSU teammate Chris Davis (St. Petersburg Catholic) and former New Orleans VooDoo WR Greg Ellingson (Robinson), who spent time in the Bucs training camp. Tampa Bay also signed DB Rashad Barksdale away from Kansas City.
Goings: Tampa Bay does not have its two most dangerous receivers from 2012. The Storm was rocked in January when WR Chandler Williams died unexpectedly and lost Prechae Rodriguez to Orlando. Rodriguez led the team in catches (125), yards (1,653) and TDs (32). QB Stephen Wasil retired and OL George Bussey, a second-team All Arena pick, signed with San Jose. Tampa Bay also lost its entire defensive backfield including Erick McIntosh and Riley Swanson, who led the team in pass breakups and interceptions, respectively.
Revamped roster: The opening day roster looks quite different from last season, with nine players returning. The 24-man roster has 14 league veterans and 10 first-time AFL players.
TV: After a 2012 season marred with labor disputes and replacement players, the AFL scored a marketing coup by partnering with CBS Sports for 2013. The CBS Sports networks will televise a prime-time game of the week each Saturday during the season and through the semifinals of the playoffs. Tampa Bay at Spokane will be televised April 27, and Orlando visits the Storm on June 8. And in its first return to network TV since 2008 — the year before the league suspended operations for a season — CBS will air ArenaBowl XXVI on Aug. 17.
Speaking of ArenaBowl XXVI … : Orlando's Amway Center will host the championship game. It marks the return to a neutral-site title game (unless the Predators are in it) for the first time since 2008. Arizona looks to become the first team since the 1995-96 Storm to win back-to-back ArenaBowls.
Shark Attack: Jacksonville has been arguably the most consistent team since making its league debut in 2010. The Sharks, the three-time defending South Division champions, captured ArenaBowl XXIV.
Cuts: The league trimmed Kansas City, Georgia and Milwaukee in 2013, bringing the total to 14 clubs.