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Power notebook: Opposing offenses' tactics anger linebacker Bryant

| Sunday, June 22, 2014, 6:29 p.m.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
The Pittsburgh Power's James Bryant celebrates after a sack by him and teammate Maurice Fountain of the Iowa Barnstormers QB Carson Coffman during the game at Consol Energy Center on Friday, June 20, 2014. The Power won the game 57-27 and earned a playoff berth for the first time in team history.

Power quarterback Tommy Grady is getting in sync with his wide receivers after a season of injuries in the passing game.

The defense has held two of its past three opponents to one touchdown in the second half, an impressive feat on a 50-yard field.

Injured starters Virgil Gray and Tyrone Goard are close to returning.

Then, there's this: linebacker James Bryant is mad.

After the Power defeated the Iowa Barnstormers on Friday, Bryant was in no mood to celebrate the clinching of the franchise's first playoff berth or its eighth consecutive victory. He was more interested in complaining about how offenses have been holding and cut-blocking Power defenders repeatedly this season.

“And you wonder why we have injuries,” he said, adding the answer might be sending video to Arena Football League officials.

Bryant said opposing offenses have no choice other than to go outside the rules.

“They can't stop us,” he said. “You are going to hold somebody who you can't stop.”

Phillips' time

Coach Ron James was generous with his praise of the defense that has been without Gray, its best defensive back, for the past five games. Against Iowa, defensive back Al Phillips set a team record with 13 tackles.

“He is having his best season as an arena football player,” James said of Phillips, who played for him in Utah. “At the beginning of the season, he was without a team. We brought him into the fold, knowing what we could expect from him.”

Phillips is one of many veterans the Power have acquired after trying to survive with younger players in the past.

“We have a lot of intelligent players that understand exactly what it means to be in the position we are in,” James said.

Offense on track

The Power's offense is starting to catch up with the defense that has been strong all season.

Grady recorded his best completion percentage of the season against Iowa (24 of 31, 77.4 percent) while throwing five touchdown passes of 20 or more yards.

“You look at him and say, ‘How can he get that thing in that tight area down the field?' ” James said.

Grady moved into 13th place on the AFL's all-time passing yards list (21,734), passing Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden.

Injury update

James said Gray ran full speed last week for the first time since suffering a high-ankle sprain May 17. Although the team appears locked into the No. 3 seed for the postseason, James said he won't save Gray and wide receiver Tyrone Goard (knee). If they are healthy for the next game Saturday in Jacksonville (5-8), they will play.

Playoff possibilities

The Power (11-3) likely will be a wild-card team and open the playoffs the weekend of Aug. 1-3 on the road against the American South champion, either Orlando or Tampa Bay (both 8-6 and tied for first place). Catching Cleveland (12-1) for the American East title will require the Gladiators to lose three of their final five games with the Power finish 4-0. The Gladiators have won four games with last-second scores, including their 69-68 victory in Philadelphia on Saturday.

Hall of Famers?

Power wide receivers coach Damian Harrell is one of 10 finalists for the Arena Football Hall of Fame Class of 2014. Harrell is the AFL's all-time leader in receptions (1,164), receiving yards (15,128) and touchdowns (357). At one point, he caught a touchdown in 78 straight games.

Also nominated was former Power offensive line coach Kyle Moore-Brown, a three-time All-Ironman (two-way player) selection.

Voting among fans and Hall of Fame members begins Monday, and results will be turned over to the Hall of Fame Operating Board of Directors. The class will be announced during the 2014 conference championship weekend Aug. 9-10.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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