Williams goes down, Kats' injury list growing

Monday, April 23, 2001 at 1:00am

If there was an Arena Football League statistic for injuries treated, then Dr. Michael Pagnani, the head physician of the Nashville Kats, would easily be the leader.

The Kats added to the list of the fallen Saturday night when defensive specialist John Williams went down with an anterior cruciate ligament injury. The loss of Williams, who had been one of the top defensive players for the Kats (1-1) since coming over from the Memphis Maniax of the XFL, may be a bigger loss than the 45-40 setback at the hands of the Tampa Bay Storm (2-0). Williams was to be evaluated to determine if his injury would be a minor one that would sideline him for four weeks or a season-ending tear that would require surgery.

The Kats are even losing players who aren't on the team yet. Wide receiver-defensive back Jeff Russell tore his ACL Saturday night in the XFL Championship game. Both Russell and wide receiver-defensive back Ron Carpenter played this season for the Los Angeles Xtreme, winners in the title game over the San Francisco Demons.

"We're losing guys left and right," said Kats lineman James Baron. "We lose Jeff and he's not even here yet.

"We can't get gun shy. It's just part of football. We have a lot of character on this team. We are going to be all right. We'll get better because we have to deal with it."

Also missing the game with the Storm were lineman Pat Downey with a leg injury and defensive specialist Kirk Pointer with a foot injury.

Since camp began the Kats have lost wide-receiver-linebacker Corey Sullivan (broken ankle), wide receiver-linebacker Cory Fleming (broken ankle), defensive specialist Cliff Green (ankle), defensive specialist Quincy LeJay (knee), lineman Aaron Hamilton (quad) and wide receiver-linebacker L.C. Stevens (shoulder).

Kats coach Pat Sperduto wants an injury-free week from his team as he prepares them for another trip to Florida, this time to take on the surprising Florida Bobcats, 1-1, Saturday night.

"It's starting to get tougher with all of the injuries," said Sperduto who has maintained that this team is a work-in-progress that won't really hit its stride until week seven or eight of the season. "We are going to be a good football team down the road. Our goal is not to lose anyone else, but that is something that is controlled by a higher power."

Sperduto is also concentrating on getting some players back in the next week or two. Wide receiver-defensive back Robert Davis, one of the more physical players on the team, should pick up his practice schedule this week. His first priority has been his work as a member of the Austin Peay State University football coaching staff during spring drills.

Stevens is expected to get the green light. Carpenter will return, but Sperduto doesn't expect him to be in uniform until the May 3 game at Gaylord Entertainment Center against the New Jersey Gladiators.

"Ron brings us experience, toughness, a lot of savvy and quiet leadership," Sperduto said. "He loves to play football."

The Kats will also be working to continue to refine their game. Execution in several areas was a problem, especially in the second half against the Storm, which has a five-game winning streak against the Kats.

"We have to get a little more focused, especially on third down plays," Baron said. "I know I made some mistakes. A lot of guys made mistakes."

Sperduto said there were some blown coverages and some missed blocks among the execution problems.

"We have to learn to execute and we have to learn to sustain pressure on the other team," Sperduto said.

KELLY GETS RECORD: Kats quarterback Andy Kelly set the new record for touchdown passes in the Arena League with 343. He broke Mike Perez's previous mark of 341. Kelly came into the game with 339 TD passes.

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