Power DB Gray improves on his play against Soul
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With his high ankle sprain adequately —but not completely — healed, defensive back Virgil Gray re-entered the Power lineup July 19 in Iowa.
Two months and seven games as a spectator didn't prevent Gray from returning an interception for a touchdown against the Barnstormers. Yet when teammates and coaches approached him after the game to offer congratulations, Gray barely could look at them.
“He was down,” coach Ron James said. “You could see it on his face. I think he fought through a lot of things, but he wasn't pleased with his performance.”
The scene in the Power locker room Saturday was decidedly different after Gray led his team to its 12th consecutive victory, 64-34 against a potent Philadelphia Soul offense.
This time, Gray was pleased.
In the Power's final game before opening the playoffs Sunday in Orlando, Gray intercepted two passes, tying him with Chris LeFlore and Sergio Gilliam for the franchise career record (11) after only one season with the team. Plus, he was almost everywhere the two Soul quarterbacks looked, batting away passes, blanketing receivers and finishing with eight of his team's 12 pass breakups.
“I told Virgil, ‘Welcome back,' ” James said.
Gray, who approaches his craft with the seriousness of any professional at any level, said he personally was offended by his performance in Iowa.
“Everyone was saying, ‘It's your first game back. Don't worry about it.' But just the competitor I am, I expected to come out there and perform to my best,” he said.
The Power's 62-61 victory against Orlando on May 24 was the team's first without Gray. Here's what happened:
• Former Florida State player Greg Carr and Larry Brackins, a 2005 draft choice of the Tampa Bay Buccanneers, combined to catch 12 passes for 196 yards and five touchdowns.
• The Power had only three pass breakups and no interceptions.
• The Predators' point total was the third-most against the Power this season.
James said Gray's presence against Orlando's two big receivers — Carr is 6-foot-6; Brackins is 6-5 — will be important. Gray played in the past three ArenaBowls for the Arizona Rattlers, winning two.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
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