The Rattlers found a lot of free time since reaching the Indoor Football League championship game in 2019.
A week into last year’s camp, the season was shut down because of COVID-19.
It left players to rethink, recharge and redirect their lives until camp returned this week with a season already two games in for some teams.
Quarterback Drew Powell’s main motive to come back was to get rid of the bad taste that the 2019 championship loss to the Sioux Falls Storm left him with. In the meantime, he coached some high school football and he dug graves and cleaned head stones in Hampton, Virginia, to earn some extra cash.
“It was a little different,” Powell said. “I had to dig a couple of graves. It was interesting.”
He did that for a month and a half.
“Hard work,” he said. “You use football, team stuff to get the job done.”
Linebacker Byron Evans II, the son of former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker great Bryon Evans, helped his father coach football at Phoenix South Mountain and packed about 300 boxes a day for Amazon.
“It’s a blessing to be out here,” Evans said. “It got taken away last year.
“I’m really appreciative to take everything in.”
Evans said he also deepened his spiritual beliefs during the COVID-19 year. With his father there for guidance. The former Northern Arizona linebacker never felt like he had to step into his father’s big shoes to be an NFL great.
“If I wanted to be a shoe shiner, he would support me,” Evans said.
Vincent Testaverde Jr., who doesn’t want to be called “Vinny” — the name made famous by his father, a former longtime NFL quarterback — is in camp competing for reps with Powell and Ben Holmes.
“I’ll save Vinny for my dad,” said Testaverde, who was a part of the BC Lions in the Canadian Football League pre-COVID.
The Rattlers began training camp with first game only two weeks away
When COVID-19 hit, the CFL season kept getting pushed back until it was finally canceled.
“I’m presented with this opportunity now and I’m running with it,” Testaverde said.
Testaverde said sometimes it’s tough and sometimes it’s cool to have the Testaverde name.
“I’m used to it by now, but he’s the first one to tell me, ‘Don’t ever listen to what anyone has to say about you,’ ” Testaverde said. “I’m my own player. I walk in my own path. I’ll get to where I want to be. It’s going to take a little more time than it took him. That’s all.”
There is not much time for the Rattlers to get ready for their opener May 16 in Prescott Valley against the expansion Northern Arizona Wranglers.
Head coach and team president Kevin Guy has 40 players in camp, 23 of them rookies. But the nucleus, led by Powell, wide receivers Jarrod Harrington and Jamal Miles, running back Darrell Monroe, offensive linemen Lamar Mady and Steven Gurrola, and defensive linemen Chris McAllister and Josh Gordon return.
“We’re young but we’ve got veterans in the right spots,” Guy said. “It’s moving fast. A lot of guys are thinking a little too much. We’ll settle down in two or three days. Get comfortable.”
Guy said some players have taken more than a year off. Some players came back rusty and others lifted too many weights and didn’t do enough cardio, he said.
“We’ve got to spend some time to get conditioned,” Guy said.
Guy said every team in the league has had only two weeks to get ready for the season.
“It’s a fast-paced game,” he said. “Guys just have to get used to the tempo of the game. That usually takes about two weeks.”
Guy said he’s missed it. He kept some of the time occupied with the business side, after taking on role of team president along with general manager.
“I’ve always enjoyed this job, because I feel like I’ve got two jobs,” he said. “I get to switch my mindset a little bit. It’s fun.”
For Powell, the drive to get back was the 56-53 loss to Sioux Falls on July 13, 2019, when more than 14,000 fans filled Gila River Arena in Glendale. It prevented a perfect season for the 15-1 Rattlers.
After camp lasted one week last year before the season was canceled, Powell was one of the first Rattlers to re-sign for 2021.
“That was the goal,” Powell said. “To go back to the drawing board, put in more work. And just come back 100% better.
“The guys in the locker room, the coaches, the atmosphere and being a part of winning. Not winning that championship game, leaving everything out there, definitely played a big part. It’s always better to go out on top if you’re going to go out. I’m still healthy. I’m still young. I’m ready to ball.”‘
Full arena for Rattlers’ games
There will be no crowd size restriction this summer for the Rattlers at Phoenix Suns Arena, the team announced Monday. They are the first pro sports franchise in the Valley to open up the games to full capacity since COVID-19 shut down sports last year.
Guy said many COVID-19 health and safety protocols will be put in place to make 100% capacity possible. All spectators will be required to wear masks.
“We are used to winning in this building,” Guys said in a statement. “We just looked at COVID as our next opponent. So after having several discussions at the league level and with the arena, we collaborated on a plan that would allow for us to create the safest environment possible for our players, coaches, corporate partners and fans to return to the games.”
1 Drew Powell, QB, 6-3 220
2 Jamal Miles, WR 5-10 185
4 Daquawn Brown, DB, 6-0 175
5 Del’Michael High, WR, 6-2 200
6 Devauntay Ellis, RB, 6-0 225
7 Tyrell Pearson, DB, 5-9 170
8 Troy Pelletier, WR, 6-3 210
9 Deondre Douglas, WR, 6-2 210
10 Ben Holmes, QB, 6-0 210
11 Jeremiah Harris, WR, 5-7 160
13 Braxton Haley, WR, 6-1 190
14 Darrell Monroe, RB, 6-2 220
15 Dillion Winfrey, DB, 5-8 185
16 Jarrod Harrington, WR, 5-9 185
18 Isaiah Huston, WR, 6-0 180
19 Vincent Testaverde Jr., QB, 6-2 210
21 Jaleel Wadood, DB, 5-10 175
22 Ernesto Lacayo, K, 5-8 195
23 Nick LaSane, RB, 6-1 225
27 Devin Cockrell, DB, 5-10 195
31 Chris McAllister, DL, 6-2 250
33 Byron Evans II, LB, 6-0 235
43 Ricky Wyatt, Jr., LB, 6-0 240
48 Montavious Atkinson, LB, 6-1 200
52 Treyvon Williams, LB, 5-11 225
56 Steven Gurrola, OL, 6-2 290
64 Eastwood Thomas, OL, 6-6 320
77 Kamryn Bennett, OL, 6-4 290
78 Jahair Jones, OL, 6-4 310
79 Kenny Thomas, OL, 6-6 330
87 Timmy Hernandez, WR, 6-0 200
88 JJ Brania-Hopp, WR, 6-0 205
91 Adam McLean, DL, 6-2 315
92 Nikolaus D’Avanzo, DL, 6-3 265
93 Rashad Brandon, DL, 6-3 330
94 Lamar Mady, OL, 6-2 305
95 Josh Gordon, DL, 6-1 260
99 Dillon Faamatau, DL, 6-3 295
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