Two of the three highest profile Utah Blaze players won't return to the team when training camp for the 2008 Arena Football League season opens next week. Wide receiver Siaha Burley has signed with the Arizona Rattlers, while lineman Hans Olsen retired to go into sports radio broadcasting full time.
But the third Blaze star is back and will be for a long time.
Quarterback Joe Germaine has come to terms on a new five-year contract with the Blaze. The deal is expected to become official today.
In a league where one- and two-year deals are the norm, Germaine's five-year agreement is a rarity. It is slated to keep the Arizona native and former Ohio State star in a Blaze uniform through the 2012 campaign.
Germaine is coming off the most prolific passing season in AFL history. He threw for 5,005 yards in 2007 in leading the Blaze to the playoffs for the second consecutive season. The ball used on his record-setting pass that put him over the 5,000-yard mark has been sent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
When training camp for the third Blaze season opens Feb. 7, Germaine will be without his favorite target the past two years. Burley, who set the all-time AFL receiving yardage record in '07, returned to the Rattlers, the team he played with prior to signing with the Blaze. Utah's top returning pass catcher is Tom Pace, who caught 111 passes for 1,198 yards a year ago.
Receivers Aaron Boone and Orshawante Bryant are also among the 16 Blaze veterans who have been invited to camp. In addition, 20 newcomers will be there. That 36-man roster will need to be trimmed to 24 prior to the season opener on March 1 at EnergySolutions Arena against Arizona."We've been looking forward to training camp for some time now," said Blaze head coach and general manager Danny White. "The talent on this roster is outstanding. This is the most balanced roster we have had, and I am confident this team will be successful in the upcoming season." While the Blaze have been explosive offensively in their first two seasons, the Utah defense has struggled. White hopes that will change this year and to that end, two of Utah's top newcomers are veteran defensive linemen, E.J. Burt and Dwayne Missouri.