It Takes More Than a Quarterback To Lose

View From the Press Box

Joe Kauffman
Technical Editor

June 22, 1997

TAMPA, Fla. - In his first three seasons with the Tampa Bay Storm, Lawrence Samuels had only 34 receptions for 416 yards and three touchdowns, with an average of 12.2 yards per catch. After Saturday night's game against the New York CityHawks, he doubled his offensive output in a mere eight games.

This season, Samuels has caught 34 passes for 453 yards and four touchdowns; and there are still six games remaining in the regular season. Although he had no tackles, he clinched the game with a fumble recovery with 43 seconds remaining in the game after Les Barley made a blind-side hit to New York QB Mike Perez.He returned the ball ten yards to the Tampa Bay 22 yard-line, where the Storm then ran out the clock.

"Touchdown!" Samuels said about his thoughts when he saw the ball lying on the turf. "I wanted to score, but I couldn't. [The CityHawks player] caught up with me."

The fumble recovery was just one of many defensive plays that he has this year. In eight games, Samuels also has 12 tackles, five assists and one pass defensed, although his presence on the defensive side of the ball has intimidated opposing receivers into dropping a many catches.

But even though he has been an excellent WR/DB in past years, Samuels is producing more on offense, a change from the part-time playing time at receiver as in years past. He has moved into second on the team in receiving for the season behind offensive specialist George LaFrance, passing WR/LB Stevie Thomas, does not feel that he is becoming one of the Storm's clutch receivers. He thinks that the wins are based on the entire team's effort, not individual statistics.

"I think the whole team played good. I don't base the performance on myself," said Samuels. "I base it on the team effort, and [it] was there tonight."

But his performance in the last month has kept the Storm (4-4) close in games where a complete team effort probably would have resulted in more notches in the win column. In the home loss to New Jersey last week, he recorded the longest play from scrimmage this season as he caught a 46 yard TD pass from Storm QB Peter Tom Willis, who played against the CityHawks despite having discovered two broken ribs---from an injury at Albany on June 7---in x-rays taken late this week; it had been thought that they were only bruised.

With an offense that has been struggling this season---the Storm scored only 27 points against New York---the receiving corps needs to step up. LaFrance and Thomas have been the workhorses on this team for years, but sooner or later, these two AFL Hall of Fame-bound veterans will retire. Last year, Lonnie Turner was an outstanding receiver for the ArenaBowl champions, but he retired after the preseason. Just as there was a vacuum at quarterback when Jay Gruden left to become offensive coordinator for the Nashvile Kats, so too can be said of the time when LaFrance and Thomas leave. While LaFrance still seems to be in his prime, the fire in Thomas may be dying. If this is true, the next go-to receiver looks like he will be named Lawrence Samuels.

That's my view from the press box.

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