At practice this week, Orlando Predators coach Rob Keefe carved out time to educate his players.
The team's playbook, as always, was emphasized, but the Arena Football League's most storied rivalry was a popular subject, too.
The Predators and the Tampa Bay Storm will square off at 7 Saturday night before an enthusiastic crowd at the Tampa Bay Times Forum and a nationally televised audience on CBS Sports Network.
"You tell them all week, 'It's a bright-lights, big-city kind of thing,''' Keefe said."Get your nerves and butterflies out early. We've told them every day what the rivalry will be like.''
Although it is early in the season, the Preds (2-0) and Storm (2-0) are two of four arena-league teams entering this weekend with two victories. The reigning champion Arizona Rattlers and San Jose SaberCats are the others.
After Orlando and Tampa Bay have struggled in recent seasons, that is significant. So is this being the teams' 53rd meeting, with the series tied at 26 victories each.
"I want to see my players embrace the rivalry,'' said Keefe, in his first season as Orlando's coach. "I want to see a team that puts forth an effort that respects the city of Orlando and does it passionately and proudly.''
Said Preds quarterback Jason Boltus: "[The Storm] are a good team. We give them respect, but if we execute on both sides of the ball, we'll come out with a good result.''
The Preds opened with close victories at UCF's CFE Arena, one in which they survived a late 2-point attempt to stop the Jacksonville Sharks and the other an overtime triumph against the Los Angeles KISS last week.
Like Keefe, most of his heavily turned-over roster from last season will experience the Preds-Storm rivalry for the first time Saturday night. Former Bethune-Cookman wide receiver T.T. Toliver has been on both sidelines for this game, but Keefe said he is no longer with the Preds.
"He wanted to get a fresh start,'' Keefe said. "We feel his service to Orlando was immaculate. If T.T. Toliver ever wanted to come back, we would welcome that.''
Toliver, 37, had been with Orlando since 2007. He had not played in the Preds' first two games.
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