If it's true that familiarity breeds contempt, the San Antonio Talons and San Jose SaberCats could be in for some hard knocks when they clash Saturday night.
San Jose quarterback Aaron Garcia, the most prolific passer in Arena Football League history, helped lead the Talons to the Central Division title last year before signing with the SaberCats in the offseason.
Two other ex-Talons, wide receiver Jason Willis and defensive back Ken Fontenette, also defected to San Jose.
Turnabout being fair play, the Talons raided the SaberCats'' roster, signing offensive lineman Emmanuel Akah, defensive back Andre Jones, and defensive linemen Tim McGill and Joe Sykes.
Sykes was named AFL Defensive Player of the Year last season after leading the league in sacks with 16.
Fontenette, who has a hip injury, will not play when the Talons and SaberCats meet in the season opener for both teams at 7:30 Saturday at the Alamodome.
Garcia passed for almost 5,000 yards and 118 touchdowns in the Talons' first season in San Antonio last year. Now 42, Garcia is starting his 18th Arena season.
"No doubt, he knows us and we know him," Talons coach Lee Johnson said Friday. "He knows how we do things and he knows what our mentality is going to be going into this game. We're going after him and he wouldn't expect anything less.
"He knows what the deal and I know, too. I'm excited about and I'm looking forward to it. It should be a great game."
Talons lost hearbreaker in playoff opener last year
The Talons entered last year's playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the National Conference after finishing the regular season 14-4.
San Antonio won 11 consecutive games before losing to Iowa in the regular-season finale, and falling to the Utah Blaze 35-34 in the first round of the playoffs at the Alamodome.
That the Talons were beaten at the Alamodome made the loss that much more difficult to take.
"I'm still not over it," Johnson said. "I wanted to do something special our first year here. I wanted to bring a championship to the city of San Antonio. I wanted to be the first expansion team to ever go and win the whole thing. I knew we could do it. That's why I was so hurt after the game.
"We had put so much into it. I knew we had what it took, and for us to come up short really hurt me, and I'm carrying it right now. But that's the way I was brought up, the way I was raised. You get knocked down, you get back up and you fight."
The Talons have one local player on their roster, wide receiver Robert Quiroga, a Holmes and Baylor graduate who missed most of last season with a hamstring injury.
"I'm really excited about starting a new season after what I went through last year," Quiroga said. "It's great to have the opportunity to play in front of my family and friends in San Antonio."
Talons coach, team's new QB won AFL title together in Denver
The Talons will have another highly heralded quarterback this season, John Dutton, who has won two AFL titles
"He's a tall, experienced guy," Johnson said of Dutton, 37. "It's funny how things come full circle. When I started coaching with John Elway's Arena team in Denver in 2002, John was the first person I went and got.
"So here we are again, 11 years later. We needed a quarterback and he was the one I went and got."
Johnson was Denver's defensive coordinator in 2005 when Dutton helped lead the Crush to the AFL championship. Dutton also won a league title with San Jose in 2002, and was named MVP of the ArenaBowl, the AFL championship game.
"John does everything well," Johnson said. "He's calm under pressure. He's seen everything. He's an experienced veteran and a tremendous leader on and off the field. He's a great guy, an exceptional athlete, but a better person."
While last year's playoff loss to Utah still sticks in his craw, Johnson said preparing for a new season has helped him look ahead.
"Putting another team together was the first part of getting over it," Johnson said. "Right now I'm just looking forward to getting it started. Hopefully, we can get to that same situation and the outcome will be different."
The Talons play at home again next week, facing the Chicago Rush at 7:30 p.m. Friday.