Lifting weights in a gym without the reward of a game day is football purgatory.

Ask VooDoo receiver Quorey Payne, who until last week, spent most of the first half of the Arena Football League season off the field, unable to play or practice.

He could, though, work out. Not that squats, lunges and protein shakes offer the same feeling as a touchdown catch.

“I’m just tired of lifting weights, struggling trying to run,” said Payne, who will play Friday for the VooDoo (2-7) against the Tampa Bay Storm (9-0) at the Smoothie King Center. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.

“Now that I’m able to,” he continued, “I’m a little more motivated now that I have something to look forward to.”

And the VooDoo do too.

“We’ve been waiting to get him back, and finally he’s back,” coach Pat O’Hara said. “It took half the season, but we got him back.”

Payne gives former LSU quarterback Ryan Perrilloux another receiving option as he starts in place of Kurt Rocco, who is out with a knee injury.

Payne, playing in his third season with the VooDoo, injured his right foot during training camp. He sat out the first three games before playing in the first half of a road loss to the Pittsburgh Power (four receptions, 42 yards, TD) but he was unable to finish. He then missed the next four games.

Last Saturday, Payne returned to the lineup, catching seven passes for 76 yards and four TDs, a performance overshadowed only by the VooDoo’s fifth loss in their past six games.

It’s a problem Payne wants to amend.

“I still can’t really get up on my tip toes like last year and years before, but I’m slowly getting there,” he said. “My foot is getting stronger. I know what I want to do. I can’t do it as best as I want to, but I’m trying to get the job done.”

Last season, Payne led the AFL in all-purpose yards (2,198). He played in 12 games, catching 53 passes for 798 yards and 13 TDs.

“Me and Q had a connection at training camp, and last week, I threw him two TDs,” Perrilloux said. “It’s just good to have him back on the squad. Good guy, veteran who understands the game, and it’s always good to be on the field with guys like that, especially (being) a rookie quarterback.”

The VooDoo rank 11th out of 14 teams in scoring offense (44.8 ppg). Meanwhile, Tampa Bay’s defense is allowing 55.5 points per game.

Tampa Bay’s leading receiver is L.J. Castille with 61 catches for 826 yards and 25 TDs. Larry Beavers has added 43 catches for 539 yards and nine scores, and Dwayne Eley has 28 catches for 373 yards and five TDs.