Fleming, Kats still looking for that ring

Wednesday, March 28, 2001 at 1:00am

Unfinished business could well be the theme for why so many of the eligible free agents for the Nashville Kats chose to stay and play in �The Alley� rather than sign bigger contracts with other teams in the Arena Football League.

One of those players is wide receiver/defensive back Cory Fleming who chose to stay and make another drive to the Arena Bowl title game. The only change is that Fleming and the rest of the Kats want to walk away the winners this time.

�We went through four years and got knocked out of the playoffs in the first round ever year,� Fleming said. �Last year, making it to the championship game, means a lot of people are going to be watching us to see if it is going to be a jinx for us like it was for the Tennessee Titans (who lost in the first round this season after losing the Super Bowl the year before), whether it was just luck or whether we just got that much better.

�A lot of people will be looking for us to get back and be the team that wins the games we�re supposed to win and not play around with a lot of teams this year. It�s going to take more concentration in the games. When we have a team down we need to go ahead and win the game and not play around and give them a chance to come back into the game.�

Fleming stressed that players wanted to try the free agent market, but when they compared other teams to Nashville, most of them decided it was better to stay where they are, especially those who had been with the Kats since they started.

�The main thing was players just wanted the best deal and to have the opportunity to win games,� Fleming said. �We had a couple of guys take other deals, but I think most of the guys think this team has an opportunity to compete at a high level.�

Veteran quarterback Andy Kelly has been dealing with a muscle problem in his back and has seen limited play in preseason drills as the Kats go through two-a-day workouts. Fleming isn�t worried about Kelly. He would rather have him healthy when the Kats open the regular season April 13 against the Orlando Predators in a rematch of last year�s Arena Bowl. The Kats play a preseason game Friday night at 7:30 against the Los Angeles Avengers at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.

�I�m really confident in Andy,� Fleming said. �I don�t worry about him at all. Even the best players go through trying times. What we do is just get around those things and keep going.

�We know what he is going to do. He is going to compete at the highest level and win games for you.�

According to Fleming, it is Kelly�s desire to win that makes him such a special player.

�He puts the time in,� Fleming said. �He has always done that. He gives us the motivation to win games.

�He is a winner. You can�t draw that on a board. You can�t teach it. Coaches can�t put it in your head. You have to believe in yourself. He makes a bad play and throws a pick for a touchdown and then he comes back and throws a touchdown.

That�s why he rises above a lot of the quarterbacks in this league. The ones who thrive in this league are the ones who can come back from all types of despair.�

Fleming missed four regular season games late last season with a severe foot sprain, but was able to compete in the playoffs. He had 73 receptions for 938 yards and 20 touchdowns. He started the season as an offensive specialist but in week seven of the season he started doing double duty on offense and defense.

Despite a strong track record and an invitation last year to come to the Oakland Raiders training camp, one that he declined, the Titans have not shown a great deal of interest in giving Fleming, a former player for the Dallas Cowboys, a closer look as a receiver. His agent had talks with Titans general manager Floyd Reese last year, but an invitation to camp didn�t pan out.

�That�s part of the game,� Fleming said. �One day you�re high on a guy and the next day you�re not. I think some of our guys could play at the next level with no problem. Some have already been there.

�I�m one of those guys who could take it or leave it. I�m just content with what I�m doing now. If something better comes along I�ll have to evaluate it like I do everything else. The only reason I continue to play is to win the championship.�

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