They brought some Arena Football League players outdoors on Thursday, and plenty of fans seemed to like the change of pace.
Mayor Nutter and Ron Jaworski were there throwing passes, and man-about-town Ed Rendell was an interested bystander in a lunch-hour crowd that stood three and four deep on both sides of Market Street between 16th and 17th Streets.
At the public workout by the Soul, coach Mike Hohensee wore a headset and narrated as he explained various formations and plays while his team demonstrated.
"I've been a fan of the AFL a while," Rendell said as he took in the scene with music blasting behind him and Soul public address announcer Vinnie "The Crumb" Caligiuri doing his thing nearby. "I was at the first game ever played in Philadelphia. It's a high-paced sport, and it's a great sport to watch."
On Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Soul (2-5) will play at home for only the second time this season. Their opponents will be the Jacksonville Sharks (6-1), who are in first place in the AFL's South Division.
A Philadelphia police officer estimated that between 1,500 and 2,500 fans were on Market Street for the Soul's final pregame get-together.
Nutter and Jaworski, the team's co-owner, completed pinpoint passes to wide-open Soul receivers, although no one was defending. Fans were pulled from the sidelines and allowed to throw or catch passes under the same conditions.
"Our fans have been so great since we came into existence that we just wanted to do something outside the box," Jaworksi said. "We wanted to bring our game to Center City Philadelphia and let people see our players as a way of saying thanks. We're blown away by the number of people who turned out. In fact, we may do it again."
The Soul, who defeated host San Jose, 76-62, last week, will take on a Jacksonville squad that has won six in a row. Sharks quarterback Aaron Garcia has thrown an AFL-record 1,003 touchdown passes during his career.
"They have a great offense with a quarterback who is probably the best ever in the league," said Soul quarterback Ryan Vena, who threw eight touchdown passes in his team's win last week. "It's going to be a challenge for us, and us playing at home is going to help make it happen."
Honoring faith and family. It will be faith and family night at the Wells Fargo Center. Faith-based rock bands Fair Warning and Freddie Fish & the Loaves will perform before the game. The concert will begin at 5 p.m. Mike Reichenbach, the team chaplain for the Soul, will speak to fans after the game.
Contact staff writer Kevin Tatum at 215-854-2583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.