Power WR depth tested with injury to Lesue
The lasting image from the Power's 55-28 loss to the Cleveland Gladiators was Anthony Hoke and Justin Lawrence lifting injured teammate Aaron Lesue into their muscular arms and carrying him to a seat on the bench.
It was only fair. Lesue had been carrying the Power through the early weeks of the season before suffering what appears to be a serious injury Saturday in the third quarter when he was knocked down, his knee buckling underneath him. The pass interference penalty against the Gladiators was superceded by Power quarterback Tommy Grady's intentional grounding, but the bigger loss was Lesue.
He missed the rest of the game, but still finished as the Power's leading receiver (nine receptions, 102 yards) and leads the Arena Football League with 59 catches through six games.
Power coach Ron James said Sunday he is unsure of the extent of the injury. Lesue was not scheduled to see a doctor until Monday.
“This type of injury could go either way,” James said. “Anything I might add would be pure conjecture at this point.”
Still, Lesue could be out for a significant length of time, further depleting the Power's group of wide receivers that has been without starter Prechae Rodriguez for the past four games. Rodriguez suffered a foot injury in the second game of the season after scoring seven touchdowns among his first 18 catches.
The Power may be forced to play the Philadelphia Soul on Saturday without Lesue and Rodriguez. After wide receiver James Shaw was ejected for fighting and Lesue was hurt, starting linebacker Arvell Nelson moved to offense and made four catches for 30 yards.
Plus, Shaw could face further discipline from the Arena Football League, including a possible suspension. Earlier in the game, he was penalized for a late hit.
“They may just fine him,” AFL Players Union executive director Ivan Soto said. “We would need to review the tape and we prefer a deferred suspension for guys when possible.”
In any case, the Power (3-3) need to stop their downward spiral that has included consecutive defeats to the AFL's two unbeaten teams (Arizona and Cleveland).
Before the game in Cleveland, the Power had been averaging nearly 60 points per game. But they had no answer for the Gladiators' defense, which leads the league in fewest average points allowed (39).
The Power scored on only four of 10 possessions and converted seven of 20 third-down opportunities.
“You have to be able to score every time you touch the ball, or at least be at a 90 percent rate, and we were far below that,” James said. Catching the Gladiators for the division title will be difficult. Cleveland owns the tiebreaker by virtue of its two victories against the Power. Two wild cards from each conference also qualify for the playoffs.
The Power have six games remaining against division opponents, including one against Cleveland at Consol Energy Center on May 31 and three against the two-time defending conference champion Soul.
“Everybody is still in this thing,” James said. “There a lot of divisional games left to play. But we have to play better than this.”