Phantoms look to improve in 2002
by Campbell Blake
March 25, 2002 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I)
The desire to win a championship in 2002 is the driving force behind the Toronto Phantoms' efforts as they begin to go through the paces in preparation for the upcoming season. With training camp opening this week in Toronto, Phantoms head coach Mark Stoute will be watching with great attention to determine who has the right stuff to take the team to the next level after last year's playoff disappointment. Stoute will have a solid combination of veterans and rookies, old faces and new, to choose from, so the onus will be on the players during training camp to show off their skills and prove to the coaches that they deserve to be on the team.
The players and coaches have had all winter to think about last year's last-minute playoff loss in Nashville. In the eyes of veteran wide receiver/linebacker Ty Law it is now time to do everything possible to make sure that the Phantoms do not find themselves in that situation again.
"We are not going to dwell on the past, we are going to take that game and try to make ourselves better," said Law. "We do not want to be in that situation again when it comes to crunch time this year."
Last year's defense at times was prone to giving up the big play, so the addition of defensive specialist Tommy Henry will greatly enhance the team. With Tampa Henry has been an all-star and is known for great athletic ability. You never want to put the burden of a team's success on the shoulders of one player, but the presence of Henry could very well be a key to the Phantoms' success.
"Tommy Henry is an Arena vet, and he knows the game," said Law. "He can bring a little bit of savvy to this team and help us out in the backfield, he will be an asset for us."
One of the big questions that will have to be answered during training camp is who is going to be the starting quarterback this year. A battle between the veteran Pat O'Hara and young gun Chad Salisbury is about to ensue. O'Hara began last year as the starter before succumbing to an injury late in the season. At the time, the team was struggling with a record 3-8 and was quickly falling out of the playoff picture. When Salisbury took over, the team seemed to find an identity and finished the season on a five-game winning streak, ending with a division title. With Salisbury, they beat New York in the opening round of the playoffs before falling to Nashville on a last-minute touchdown. This is going to be a hard decision for Stoute to make. As you would expect everyone involved is being very diplomatic with his comments regarding the situation.
"It's going to be a great battle with Pat because he is a great quarterback," said Salisbury. "We are good friends, we going to help each other out and see what happens from there."
With camp only a few days old, a lot of decisions will have to be made over the next few weeks. Some veterans could quite possibly find themselves out of a job while a rookie could step up and shine by the time it is all over. Coach Stoute and his staff will look to make the team better, and it will be up to everyone to shine if they want to stick around for anything more than a cup of coffee. In the end, the goal is to win the Arena Bowl, and now it's time to begin the hard work so that championship dream can become a real reality.
Several veteran were absent from the opening day of camp including Pat O'Hara, Charlie Davidson, Matt George and new-comer Tommy Henry. The group of missing players is expected to trickle in over the week Veteran offensive specialist Damion Harrell has re-signed with the team after having worked out for a few NFL teams earlier this year Ben Chapdelaine, the Canadian university all-time leading passer who impressed Phantom coaches during their open try out a few weeks ago has been invited to attend training camp. He will take part in the two workouts on Wednesday of this week to once again show off his skills in hopes of earning a roster spot as the team's third quarterback A familiar face will be back in town for the season opener against Detroit. Rickey Foggie, who was an integral part of the Toronto Argonauts Grey Cup championship team in 1991, is now the starting quarterback for Detroit.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central.
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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer(s), and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.