PLANT CITY — The mysterious absence of quarterback Quinton Flowers from Wednesday’s Vipers practice at Plant City Stadium prompted a firestorm of questions about the former USF star’s status with the team.
Flowers has made it no secret that he’s been frustrated with his role in the Vipers’ offense and its quarterback rotation, saying after the team’s XFL home opener loss to the Houston Roughnecks on Saturday that he was “getting limited to a lot of things.”
Vipers coach Marc Trestman said that Flowers left for undisclosed “personal reasons,” yet is still a member of the team and his status is considered day to day. Trestman did not rule him out for Sunday night’s home game against the D.C. Defenders.
“I look forward to him coming back as soon as possible,” Trestman said. “We wish him well in terms of what he has to get accomplished, but as I told the team today, we want him back as soon as we can get him back but we’re going to leave that up to him.”
Taylor Cornelius will get his third straight start at quarterback, but that might be more of an indication that Week 1 starter and the team’s first acquisition, Aaron Murray, who returned to practice this week, isn’t ready for game action. It also indicates that the Vipers might be preparing for life without Flowers this weekend and beyond.
Going into the season, the Vipers were poised to utilize Flowers’ athleticism in a variety of roles, including quarterback, to diversify their offense. But as the season progressed, Flowers’ playing time waned. After playing just two series in the Vipers’ 34-27 loss to Houston, Flowers said that there are ”guys that should be playing and you’re limiting guys, not playing guys, so it’s tough.”
“We definitely miss Q in the locker room and in meetings and out there on the field,” Murray said. “I don’t know what the future is going to hold but we’ll figure it out and see what he decides to do, but definitely I think everyone here, if he decided to come back tomorrow or today or next week, I think all arms would be open and we’d be excited to have him back on this football team."
Flowers hadn’t played quarterback in the two years since he left USF as the American Athletic Conference’s all-time total offense leader. NFL teams saw him as a running back, and he was drafted into the XFL as a running back, but the Vipers gave him the opportunity to pursue his dream of playing quarterback professionally.
The Vipers drew 18,117 for their first game Saturday, the league’s third-largest home-opener crowd, and fans wanted to see Flowers, booing Cornelius two offensive possessions in.
"We’re not necessarily focused on the boos,” Cornelius said. “Obviously Quinton is a hometown guy and they love him to death here so they want to see him out there out for sure. Hopefully we can come out with a win this week and turn (the boos) around.”
Flowers led the Vipers downfield for their first offensive touchdown, but played just one more drive before he returned to the sideline. He didn’t return for the rest of the game, even when the Vipers had first down at the Houston 2 with a chance to go ahead, a situation seemingly made for the fleet-footed Flowers.
The following day, Flowers sent out a cryptic tweet.
“How much can you accept???”