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TRIBUNE PHOTO: JOHN LARIVIERE - Jamar Howard, picking up yards after a catch, is likely to miss four to six weeks of the Arena Football League season after the Portland Thunder receiver suffered an MCL injury Saturday at San Jose.Change is inevitable.


That's the conclusion the Portland Thunder are drawing after another week of Arena Football League play.

This time, one of the changes isn't good: Standout receiver Jamar Howard is likely to be out four to six weeks with an MCL knee injury suffered in Saturday's 64-45 road loss to the undefeated San Jose SaberCats.

Howard is expected to have surgery soon, Portland coach Mike Hohensee says. "He went over the wall and just landed wrong," Hohensee says of the first-half play that resulted in Howard's injury.

The Thunder had just signed AFL vet Jared Perry, and he had six catches and one touchdown at San Jose in his Portland debut. And the second-year team brought back Duane Brooks, a receiver who was let go last week to open a spot for lineman Sam Longo, who the Thunder hope to have on hand in another week.

Injuries and roster tweaks have been the norm for the Thunder, who are 2-3 overall and 0-2 on the road and staring at a Saturday away game against the 5-0 Philadelphia Soul.

"We knew these three road games (Arizona, San Jose, Philly) would be difficult," Hohensee says. "But if we can go out and not make the mistakes we've been making, we'll compete and have a chance to win any game."

The Thunder started poorly at San Jose. By late in the second quarter, they were behind 37-6.

"Too many mistakes in the first half," Hohensee said. "A fumble, broken pass protection for a safety, didn't do the right pass rush, had broken coverage on one of their touchdowns … it's been tough to mix and match guys, all of them learning on the run. But we just can't make those mistakes."

The Thunder outscored the SaberCats 26-20 in the second half, but they never threatened the home team at SAP Center, where the announced crowd was 7,125.

Now comes a long trip to Philadelphia for the 3 p.m. PT Saturday game (CSNNW).

"They've been very talented for a few years," Hohensee says.

Philly won last week 55-42 at the New Orleans VooDoo, "but they let New Orleans back in the game, so I'm sure they'll be ready for us."

Another player starting to see more action for Portland is Perez Ashford. He had sparkled on special teams but also played extensively at wide receiver against the SaberCats, making six catches, one for a touchdown.

"He did a good job, really stepped up his game," Hohensee says. "He's good in and out of his breaks, got good hands, is pretty good after the catch. And he's been fantastic on special teams, one of our top performers."

• One of the Thunder highlights at San Jose was the second special teams touchdown by defensive back Osagie Odiase. As he did in a home game at Moda Center, Odiase raced down the field on a kickoff and scooped up a loose ball for a quick TD.

"He puts himself in position to be successful," Hohensee says.

• Fullback John Martinez ran for a touchdown at San Jose.

"He's doing a good job, been a pleasant surprise," Hohensee says. "Last year, he looked like a kid who'd never had an (AFL) training camp. This year, he came into camp in better shape and has worked extremely hard at his craft."

• The top four of six teams in each conference, along with the four division winners, make the playoffs.

In the Pacific Division, San Jose is 5-0, Portland 2-3 and Spokane 1-3.

In the National Conference, the order is San Jose 5-0, Arizona 4-1, Las Vegas 2-2, Portland 2-3, Spokane 1-3 and the Los Angeles KISS 0-5.

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