Utah Blaze quarterback Joe Germaine missed Wednesday's practice to attend to a family matter in Arizona.

Germaine's newborn boy, not yet two weeks old, was having complications that required surgery on his heart, according to Blaze coach and general manager Danny White.

"He has a little heart defect," White said. "It's not a major thing, but it's something they want to correct now instead of waiting any more."

"We're just trying to keep (the Germaines) in our prayers and thoughts, and we're hoping for the best," said Blaze receiver Aaron Boone. "It's a tough situation."

Assuming things went well with the baby's operation, Germaine was scheduled to return to Salt Lake City in time for practice today, and the plan is that he will be ready to start Saturday night when the 2-10 Blaze host the 9-2 Chicago Rush at EnergySolutions Arena.

As for his being ready to play on Saturday, White's not concerned about Germaine missing preparation time.

"He knows what we are doing, and I've talked with him every day and have gone over any changes we are making," said White. "(Wednesday's practice) was defensive day primarily, and (today) hopefully he'll be here and we'll work on the offense."

Boone admitted that it's strange not having Germaine around. After all, the star QB has started every game for the Blaze in each of the past two seasons and is currently leading the Arena Football League in passing yardage.

"It's tough. He's the leader of the team," said Boone of Germaine. "He's the captain. He's the guy you look up to. He's the one constant we've had, you know. We've been running in different players at different positions, but he's been there the whole time. So it is different. It's a different mood and a different feel."

Should Germaine not be available to play on Saturday, veteran backup Jason Gesser would get the start at QB. Gesser is now in his third year with the Blaze but has seen limited action since 2006 when he made four starts due to a Germaine injury.

"If needs be and (Gesser) has to play, he's here and he's prepared and he knows (the offense) as good as anybody," said Boone.

NO SYMPATHY: Despite losing at San Jose on Saturday night to drop to just 2-10, Utah is still in the thick of the American Conference's playoff chase with just four games remaining. That's because six of the eight teams in the conference will make the postseason and currently five of those eight teams have four wins or fewer.

Grand Rapids, a team the Blaze will face on June 1, currently would get the conference's final playoff spot and the Rampage own just a 3-8 mark, 1 1/2 games better than the Blaze.

By comparison, it's much tougher to make the playoffs in the AFL's National Conference this season. Six of the nine teams will make the playoffs, and there are seven clubs in that conference currently with 6-5 records or better.

So while a team with a winning record may well miss the playoffs from the National Conference, a team with just five wins will likely go to the postseason from the American.

But if the Blaze are a team that squeaks in, White won't feel bad about it for a moment.

"I don't feel bad for anybody (else). I feel bad for us and the way we've lost some games," said White. "Record-wise we probably can't justify being in the playoffs, but effort-wise and personnel-wise I think we do. So I'm not going to apologize to anybody if we make the playoffs."

MISC: Blaze receiver/linebacker Tom Pace and defensive lineman E.J. Burt have been out with injuries but are practicing at near full strength. That doesn't mean they will necessarily be active for the Chicago game, however, as White likes the way his players have been playing the past three weeks with two wins and a narrow loss to the division-leading SaberCats, and he's hesitant to make changes. ... Utah's receiving trio of Huey Whittaker, Boone and J.J. McKelvey are all among the AFL's Top 10 in receiving yardage. Whittaker has 108 catches for 1,309 yards and is second in the league. Boone is sixth with 104 catches for 1,126 yards, while McKelvey is eighth with 91 receptions for 1,096 yards. ... Germaine leads the league with 3,762 yards passing and is third in the AFL in passer rating.


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