Andy Kelly, the 37-year-old Arena Football League legend, is not the future at quarterback for the expansion Utah Blaze.

But despite a 3-8 record, the Blaze aren't playing for the future. They are playing for right now.

Utah still has a decent chance of getting to the AFL playoffs this season, believe it or not, and Blaze coach/general manager Danny White has signed Kelly in a late attempt to get there.

"We think Andy's leadership and experience can help us at this point," said White after Kelly's first practice with the team on Monday. "Whether he will start or not (in Saturday's game) remains to be seen. It's just a matter of how quickly he can pick (the Blaze offense) up. I spent a couple of hours with him (Sunday) and he seems to have soaked it in pretty good." White made it clear that Joe Germaine, who has missed the past four games — all losses — due to injury, is the future at QB for the Blaze.

Germaine, however, will not be ready to start Saturday night when the Blaze host another 3-8 team, the Los Angeles Avengers, in a key Western Division battle. Both Utah and L.A. are one game behind the Chicago Rush for the final playoff spot from the AFL's American Conference. There are five games remaining in the regular season.

Kelly became available last Wednesday when he was cut by the Kansas City Brigade, the other AFL expansion franchise and the only team in the league with a worse record than the Blaze. Kelly started for Kansas City for the first seven games, but was benched after a 1-7 start and then released last week.

Utah was one of several AFL teams that called Kelly about the possibility of him joining their team. Then, Friday night after the Blaze had lost their fourth straight game, talks got more serious in a hurry.

"I was actually watching TV, feeling a little depressed because the situation in Kansas City was kind of rough," said Kelly when asked what he was doing Friday night when White called. "I have a ton of respect for coach White and I've played against him for years and years and you can't argue with the success he's had. So I thought it would be a great opportunity to come out and play with him and to learn a new system."

Both White and Kelly say there were no promises made concerning playing time, but both said that depending on how practices go this week, Kelly could be under center Saturday night.

"I want to get prepared to play," said Kelly, a former University of Tennessee star. "If I do start, that's great, but if coach decides not to (start me), that's OK, too. I just want to come in and do the best I can to help this team."

Kelly, who has played for six teams during his career owns a number of AFL records, including passing yards (38,468), completions (3,520) and attempts (5,648). He is No. 2 in career touchdown passes (741) behind New York's Aaron Garcia (757), but was the first quarterback in professional football history to throw for more than 500 touchdowns. Dan Marino owns the NFL record of 420.

Learning the terminology of the Blaze offense as well as the tendencies of his receivers may take some time, but Kelly feels like he'll be fine.

"It's not rocket science," said Kelly. "I expect to be able to adjust to it."

Kelly will battle this week in practice for the starting job with rookie Jason Gesser, who has started the past four games for the Blaze.

Gesser has completed on 61.4 percent of his passes, with 23 touchdowns and seven interceptions but is winless in his first four starts.

Signing Kelly "is not an indication that we are unhappy with Jason," White was quick to point out. "He's playing his first year of this game and I think he's done awfully well for a guy playing his first year.


E-mail: lojo@desnews.com