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Utah Blaze hope Spokane Shock, lingering labor issues don't stop momentum

Published June 16, 2012 10:00 am

Arena football • Public labor negotiations have soured, but Blaze players say they just want to play.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

On Thursday, Will Mulder felt like he had hardly practiced at all during the week. Rivalry games have a way of making time move faster, he said.

"The week just kind flew by," the defensive back said. "Everyone's so amped up. We're ready to get to Spokane and shut them up. There's always a thing between us."

The Utah Blaze (8-5) will take on the Shock (7-5) on Saturday, eager to stretch their winning ways. After the team's 68-28 stomping of the Chicago Rush, the team is on a clear high.

The defense held Chicago to only 14 points in each half and showed energy in what was easily its most complete performance of the year. The Tommy Grady-led offense again looked smooth and efficient.

For some teams, this week might scream "trap game." But coach Ron James wasn't worried headed into a road contest against a team that used to have a number of Blaze players and coaches in its stable.

"This is a good game to have on the schedule," he said. "We always come out for Spokane. And we're trying to win our two games before our bye so we can have a shot at locking up a playoff spot."

There is a bit of a pall over the Arena Football League even as the Blaze seem to be hitting their stride. Labor issues have once again cropped up, and it's turning ugly.

The Cleveland Gladiators had to forfeit last week after a work stoppage left the team without a roster. The AFL and AFL Player's Union have also taken their mud-slinging public, each organization issuing statements about why the two sides have not agreed on a new collective bargaining agreement.

Most players in the AFL make $400 a week, and everyone would love to be compensated more. But Blaze players said they plan to play — they aren't yet prepared to sacrifice games, or fans, at this point in negotiations.

"It doesn't affect our work ethic — we want to play football," receiver Aaron Lesue said. "We hope it gets figured out and we avoid a lockout. It's unfortunate, but hopefully the fans keep coming out and watching us play."

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon —

Utah Blaze at Spokane Shock

8 p.m.

TV • KMYU

Radio • 1280 AM