While Baltimore's new Arena Football League team still needs a name, other details are rounding into form.
On Dec. 14, 2016, the team announced AFL Hall of Famer Omarr Smith will serve as head coach. And on Jan. 16, the team announced the signings of its first four players. The season will begin in April, and the team's home opener against the Tampa Bay Storm is set for 1 p.m. May 7.
PressBox talked to Smith about his background, what football fans can expect from the AFL and more.
Tell us a little about your background and the experience you're bringing to Baltimore.
Omarr Smith: I've been a part of the Arena Football League for 16 years -- played eight years in San Jose, one year in Tampa Bay and [was the] defensive coordinator for [the] Arizona Rattlers [in] 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Became an offensive coordinator and assistant head coach for San Jose in 2014, and '15 I was with the organization as well. In 2016, I was the head coach for the [Los Angeles] Kiss, and through my arena football travels, I've won seven championships and lost two championships. So that brings me here to Baltimore, really excited about the opportunity and really want to bring a winning product to put on the field that the Baltimore fans can be proud of.
What can Baltimore football fans expect from the Arena Football League product?
First off, they can expect a physical football team that prides itself on defense and an efficient offense that plays with an edge. They can plan on having a team that's very, very disciplined that pays great attention to detail and that's going to compete for 60 minutes.
What are the biggest differences between arena football and regular football?
OS: There's some significant differences. Our game is very fan and family friendly. It's an exciting product -- you know, it's geared for the offense to have success, that's why you'll see scores into the 60s and 70s. It's non-stop action, it's fast-break on turf, and it's an exciting brand of football. And the most important thing is that the players are, for lack of a better term, they're tangible. They're accessible to the fans after the game. You can go and talk to them and take pictures with them and get their autographs, and, you know, we embrace the fan. That's what this league is about. When you compare it to the NFL, a lot of those, once the game's over, they go into the locker room, and you don't see them again. So the one good thing about arena football, from the fan's perspective, you're going to have access to the players, and you're going to be able to build relationships with the players, and I think that's an added plus.
What does it mean to have such strong football roots in the Baltimore community?
OS: It means a great deal, because you've got the Baltimore Ravens, who have a great tradition of good football, and the fans love it. ... There's a football void there, and we hope to fill that void. We hope to put a brand of football that the Baltimore fans can grab and hold onto and enjoy, and in the spring and summer months, they can come out and enjoy some arena football, and in the fall, they can go enjoy the Ravens.
What style of play/character do you try to inspire from your team as head coach?
OS: That they're going to fight tooth and nail, regardless of the score, and that's going to compete. That's basically it. We want the guys that are a part of our organization are going to go and compete at a high level and let the chips fall where they may. They're going to do it the right way, and do it with character and not only be good players, but be good men out in the community. And that's what we're trying to build.