While all the Utah Blaze players say they are desperate for their first win of the Arena Football League season, defensive back Eddie Canonico has extra motivation on Saturday.
Canonico wants to show the Los Angeles Avengers that he deserved better.
Canonico spent all of last season and the first four games of this year with the Avengers, where he was a starter and the team's leading tackler. He already had 26.5 tackles and two interceptions in the Avengers' first four games of '08. Then, in the week before Game 5 this year, he was called in by the L.A. coaches.
"They said they wanted to change some things up and put me on the injured reserve," said Canonico, who wasn't injured. "I was stunned. I couldn't believe it and a couple of the players I played with couldn't understand why, so I told the coach that I wasn't going to sit down for four weeks or more (on the injured list) and just watch. I wanted to play."
So instead, Canonico got on the phone and found a team that wanted him immediately the Utah Blaze. A quick trade was made sending him to Utah for "future considerations."
A couple of days later, Canonico was starting for the Blaze against the Georgia Force at EnergySolutions Arena. His play was one of the bright spots in an otherwise dreary night for the home team.
"It was like coming home to me, and I thought Utah would be my best fit," said Canonico, who lives in Las Vegas during the offseason but who knows a lot of the Blaze players. "They made the trade for me and I'm happy over here."
The trash talking between Canonico and his former teammates heading into Saturday night's game at the Staples Center has already begun.
"I've gotten calls from most of my buddies out there, the DBs and some of the receivers," said Canonico. "We've been chit-chatting over the phone, going back and forth. It's going to be fun."
And possibly violent.
"I told them to look out. I'm going give them some cheap shots," Canonico said with a laugh. "No, I'm going to keep it clean, but I do have a little extra something to play for. I'm just really excited. It's going to be an emotional game."
Canonico is part of a new-look defensive backfield for the struggling, 0-6 Blaze. Reggie Doster, a veteran Utah picked up in the offseason, is the only starter who was in training camp with the team. Damon Mason, the AFL's all-time tackles leader, was picked up in a trade with Orlando after the third game of the year.
In addition, Utah's defensive back coach Hunkie Cooper was fired last week. That has meant that Blaze head coach Danny White has taken over responsibility for the defensive backs, but he's also being helped out by Mason.
"Damon Mason is sort of like having a coach on the field," said White. "He's really good at communicating and has been a big help. Eddie's doing a nice job too. It just takes some time when you have three guys coming from different systems trying to all get everything straight."
"We're jelling now," said Canonico of the Blaze defensive backs. "It takes a little while when you have three new guys working together to get on the same page. In (the arena) game, the DBs all have to have the same mindset and know what each other is going to do, and it takes a couple of games to get that down. But we're starting to come together now."
The Blaze, meanwhile, still haven't given up on the season. With 10 games remaining on their schedule, they know they are only a couple of games out of the playoff picture."I'm telling you, once we get one win, this team is going to get rolling," said Canonico. "We're going to be rolling right into the playoffs."