JACKSONVILLE – The 2012 South Division Champion Jacksonville Sharks held their final full practice of training camp at Plantation Park on Wednesday morning.
Over the last few days of work, the Shark coaching staff has done their best to emulate a game week of preparation, which will allow the many new players to know what to expect once the regular season gets underway. Wednesday’s fast-paced workout featured a focus on situational football and wrapped up with a period of special teams work after the team session was complete.
At this point, head coach Les Moss and his staff has had nearly two weeks to evaluate the talent on their roster. Each player will have one final chance to impress on the field during Friday’s preseason scrimmage, which will be the first time that many of the Shark rookies have dealt with the walls, the most unique aspect to arena football.
Particularly worth watching will be rookie receivers Charles Gilbert and J.J. Hayes, who have yet to play in an indoor football game. Though these two wideouts have adjusted well during training camp, they will need to quickly adapt to catching passes in traffic up against the walls.
After the Sharks and Predators square off, the coaching staff will have a chance to review the game film from the scrimmage, incorporating what they see on the field in their final roster decisions. Coach Moss and his assistants will make the tough decisions necessary to bring the team down to a 24-man active roster by Saturday evening.
The Sharks announced Tuesday that offensive lineman Thomas Claiborne has been assigned to the team’s roster. Claiborne brings a year of AFL experience to Jacksonville, as he logged nine starts in seven total appearances with the Milwaukee Mustangs in 2012. Claiborne originally joined the Tampa Bay Storm for this season, but was placed on reassignment by the Storm on March 1.
The 24-year-old Claiborne (6’3”, 340) signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent prior to the 2011 NFL season, but was waived by the team in training camp. He spent his college career at Boston College, where he was a mainstay along the Eagles’ offensive line, appearing in 40 games with 34 starts during his time at the school. Claiborne is a native of Randolph, Massachusetts.
The Sharks also announced Wednesday that offensive lineman Cornelius Lewis has been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Following the day’s transactions, the Shark roster stands at the league maximum of 28 active players.
The Shark secondary is a crowded group, as each of the team’s seven defensive backs have at least one season of indoor football experience. While Bill Alford, Micheaux Robinson and LaRoche Jackson return to the team, the Sharks added a pair of veterans to the group, including former Georgia Force standout Tracy Belton.
Belton made an impact throughout the 2012 season, as he led the Force with 11 interceptions despite missing six games with a midseason injury. He also finished second on the team with 54.5 total tackles, added nine pass breakups and recorded a fumble. Belton’s performance earned him a spot on the All-Arena Second Team.
Like teammates Jerry Turner, R.J. Archer and Matt Marcorelle, Belton joins a Shark team that knocked his squad out of the playoffs after both the 2011 and 2012 seasons. After Thursday’s practice, Belton talked about his experience since moving to Jacksonville.
“I love everything about Jacksonville,” Belton said. “I love the fans. If you’re not hyped to come play in Jacksonville in this arena, you shouldn’t to play football. It’s incredible the way they do things, I love everything about it.”