Tampa Bay Sports Day

AFL: Tampa Bay Storm Open Training Camp for 30th Season

Photo by Tampa Bay Storm

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Storm opened training camp this morning at Skyway Park with the team reporting at 10 a.m.  Today marked the first of two non-padded practices, with the team donning helmets only. 

“I’ve seen a lot of first days and this was a very good first day,” said head coach Ron James.  “We must get better every day so that we’ll know by the end of camp, we are a better team than when we first started.”

While it was the first day of practice, a fan would never have known.  The team came in prepared and ready to take on whatever was thrown its way.

“We’ve been waiting for this moment,” said defensive back Dallas Jackson.  “We spent all offseason training and working on our crafts.  It’s important to come in with our ears and eyes wide open to learn as much as we can.”

Teaching is not something the Storm takes lightly.  Learning the playbook, and learning from each other, is what helps build a strong team.  The younger players will use this opportunity to learn from the veterans so that everyone can get better each day.

“I just tell the younger guys that my door is always open,” said center Ray McNeil.  “Teaching is a two-way street.  It provides me the opportunity to help guide the younger players, while also reviewing myself and seeing where I can improve.”

Another important aspect of training camp is team bonding. With a team that has a limited number of players returning from the 2016 season, it’s important that everyone gets acclimated to each other.

“It’s so important that everyone gets to know each other,” said mac linebacker Dexter Jackson.  “We need to come together as a team, so that we can achieve the ultimate goal of winning.”

While there are several new faces, there are some that are returning after spending seasons with other teams.  One of those faces is wide receiver Justin Hilton.

“It’s great to be back here in Tampa,” said Hilton.  “It feels right.  It feels like old times when I look around and see some of the guys I played with back in 2014.”

Look for camp to start moving faster as it starts to progress.  With only two weeks to showcase their skills, the players will leave it all on the field to make that final 24-man roster.

After finishing the 2016 season last in sacks with eight, the Storm knew it needed to bolster its defensive line.  In doing so, the team acquired defensive lineman Caesar Rayford. 

The six-year veteran joins the Storm after spending the 2016 season with the LA KISS.  He began his AFL career in 2010 with the Utah Blaze, where he would go on to earn All-Arena honors in 2011.  In 2013, Rayford went on to join the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL.

The 6-foot-7 lineman put on a show at practice today, disrupting the offense whenever he could and tallying several pass breakups much to his teammates delight.

The Five-Time World Champion Tampa Bay Storm will enter its 30th season in the Arena Football League in 2017.