Yard Dawgz profit off suspension of its parent league's 2009 season 

Unseasonable snow fluttered outside the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz practice facility in east Oklahoma City while inside, shoulder pads cracked together as a running back slammed into a linebacker following an unsuccessful inside hand-off.

"No, no, no, y'all need to run a hook or a slant, something else, 'cause that ain't going to work!" said a tall defensive lineman, while head coach Sparky McEwen smirked and called over the quarterback.

In the high-octane, pass-frenzy world of Arena Football League 2, running plays are a token element of the game, often contributing to around 10 percent of a team's total yardage. With fewer linemen to manhandle the defensive line, it is expected that running plays should be stuffed.

On the next play, however, a quick pitch to the left sprang the running back, who then rumbled all the way to the end zone, inspiring reciprocal trash talk from the offensive line and a near melee on the field. The intensity was good for preseason pride, already starting to set in weeks before the season opener against the Amarillo Dusters on Friday in Texas.

The team's first home game follows on April 4, hosting the South Georgia Wildcats.

After practice, McEwen brandished an optimistic smile not tempered by the memory of last season's disappointing record of 6-10.

"We have a number of older guys, so we have built a veteran-laden team," he said. "They totally submitted to what we want to achieve here. They've come from all over the country, which can sometimes be an issue because they can get stuck in their ways, but they are absorbing everything we are throwing at them, and we are throwing a lot at them."

It's been a tough year for indoor football. In late 2008, the Arena Football League announced that its 2009 season would be canceled, in the hopes of resuming in 2010 once the economy recovers.

AF2, on the other hand, is still kicking. Benefiting from an influx of AFL talent looking for a new home, the Yard Dawgz have picked up a number of promising recruits in the off-season, including two quarterbacks in veteran Robert Kent and former Sooner Tommy Grady.

"They are both extremely talented," McEwen said. "Kent put up big numbers last year and was our prize catch in free agency. Tommy Grady was decorated as a high school quarterback, went off to OU, but there was Jason White, then he goes to Utah and there was Brian Johnson."

Grady was AFL-bound until the league suspended operations, and the Yard Dawgz were happy to have him.  "Charles Martin

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Charles Martin

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