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Orlando Apollos roll in Alliance Spring opener Saturday night

Florida Football Insiders

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Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

The start of a brand new spring professional football league got underway Saturday night with one of its first games in league history being played in Orlando. And, Steve Spurrier’s club did not disappoint in a blowout win 40-6 over Atlanta

Spurrier, who once coached the U.S.F.L.’s Tampa Bay Bandits in the early 1980s, made his return to the sidelines after a four-year absence from coaching. And, his Orlando Apollos did not disappoint.

Former University of Texas and SMU college quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who’s primarily been a practice squad player on and off of NFL rosters, made Orlando’s debut an easy one. Gilbert threw for two touchdowns and caught another on a trick play, as the Apollos built a 22 – 6 lead over the Legends and never looked back.

Gilbert fired a 2nd quarter touchdown to receiver Jalin Marshall that made AAF history as the first regular-season six point score ever. And, another interesting footnote is that the play was originally ruled incomplete, as Marshall went to the ground and did not appear to hang on to the ball long enough for it to be considered a catch.

However, upon replay review, the call was overturned and Orlando led 8-3 after a two-point conversion. The AAF doesn’t allow extra point kicks/you must always go for two points.

The Apollos capitalized on an interception of Atlanta quarterback Matt Simms and former Dolphins backup running back DeVeon Smith took it in and with another two pointer it was 16-3.

That set the stage for the “Head Ball Coach” pulling out a trick play right out of the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl win over the Patriots. Running a similar double reverse to the “Philly Special,” the Apollos threw back to Gilbert for a touchdown catch which stretched the lead to the half-time work of 22 – 6:

Gilbert added a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to former USF running back D’Ernest Johnson and the issue was basically decided.

CBS TV televised the game regionally in Southern markets. The rest of the country saw the broadcast of San Antonio hosting San Diego in their debuts. San Antonio won that game 15-6. The league’s other four teams will play Sunday.

Back to Orlando. It was an overall impressive and dominant performance for the 74 year-old Spurrier’s team, as they were clearly more talented and better coached than their Atlanta counterparts on night one.

Spurrier, who won the Heisman Trophy at the University of Florida in 1966 and later led the Gators to their first-ever National Championship as coach in 1996, is no stranger to Spring leagues, himself.

Spurrier was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Bandits during the three years of the USFL from 1983 – 85, leading one of the more successful franchises in league history. That included, him winning his opening game in that ’83 season over the Boston Breakers.

All eight teams in the inaugural season of the AAF are in action on Saturday or Sunday, and the Apollos will play at San Antonio next Sunday night February 17th.

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QB Murray out again for XFL Vipers home opener

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Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

For the second consecutive week, the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL will have to go with backup quarterbacks in place of the injured, Aaron Murray.

As the Vipers get set to take on Houston in their inaugural home game Saturday afternoon, the XFL made official that Murray will miss his second game due to his lingering foot injury suffered in week one.

Murray has been unable to practice the last two weeks and that means,Tampa Bay will likely turn to Taylor Cornelius for the second straight week to start in his place. Cornelius was shaky a week ago in Seattle completing only 16 – 27 for 154 yards and two INTs, as the Vipers fell to  0- 2 with an 17-9 defeat to the Dragons.

Tampa Bay has yet to score an offensive touchdown in either of its first two games, and the Vipers may look to play former USF quarterback Quinton Flowers more (above) in this one Saturday. While not a traditional pocket passer, but more of a dual-threat, exceptional runner, Flowers has played sparingly in the Vipers first two games.

A week ago in Seattle, Flowers was just 3 – 7 for 43 yards in the air with a “pick six” as a Seattle defender leaped in the air and intercepted his pass at the Vipers one yard line and fell in the endzone.

Flowers also ran 5 times for 15 yards in the loss. He is obviously a fan favorite in the Tampa area having starred at USF in 2016-17.

If there is such a thing as a “hot seat” after only two games in the rebirth of the XFL, Tampa Bay coach Marc Trestman is clearly on it, as offense is supposed to be his forte’. Yet, the Vipers have not been able to sustain much of anything in their two losses to New York and Seattle scoring a total of 12 points.

Saturday’s home opener at Raymond James Stadium will be the first Spring football professional game in the Tampa Bay Area since the final season of the USFL and Steve Spurrier’s Tampa Bay Bandits played at the old Tampa Stadium in 1985.

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Report- new 17th game for NFL teams will all be International

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

More details are coming out on the new proposed collective bargaining agreement for the NFL and its players. And, a report Friday says that the 17 game in the regular season schedule will be a neutral field, international games for every team.

NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo reported Friday morning that for fairness and schedule balance, the extra game will favor neither team:

As it stands right now, the NFL is committed to play at least four games in London each year for its “International Series.” They have done this in each of the last two years. The league is also committed to playing in Mexico City, where are the Chiefs and the Chargers played a Monday Night Football game a year ago.

The NFL has also previously played Buffalo Bills home games in Toronto during the regular season in the last decade.

While Garafolo didn’t get specific details, it appears that the NFL will now play 16 games involving the 32 teams on the international neutral fields.

Of course, as it relates to our state, the Jaguars already have an annual series where they play home games in London. Further, owner Shahid Khan just announced earlier this month that they will be adding a second home game off their Jacksonville schedule in London starting this fall.

That was meant by considerable outrage by the Jaguars fan base, as it takes a second game off of their season ticket.

The Buccaneers just play division rival Carolina at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium a year ago (above), and the Dolphins last played in London against the Saints in the 2017 season.

It had been rumored that the NFL was looking to play as many as eight games in London annually, as soon as possible. It will be easy to see that the NFL varies up the combination and rotation of games between the U.K., Mexico and potentially again, in Canada to help accommodate the 16 total new games being added to the schedule.

When the CBA is ratified, it will be the first time the NFL increases its regular season since the league went from 14 to 16 regular season games in 1978. While this is not expected to go into effect for the 2020 schedule, it is believed that the 17 game schedule with each franchise playing an international game could come into play as soon as 2021.

As part of the new collective bargaining agreement, the league will now have an extra postseason team make the playoffs from each conference. And, that means there will be three NFC and three AFC Wildcard playoff games on the first weekend each January. That could happen as soon as this season, depending on ratification of the new deal.

Under this scenario, only the top-seeded team in each conference would receive a bye the first week and there would be three Wild Card teams pitted against the three division winners. It’s also unclear if the NFL will change the format of allowing division winners, regardless of record, to be able to host play off games. There has been considerable complaining from fans, media and teams about division winners sometimes having 2-3 or sometimes more fewer wins than the Widcard team that they are hosting.

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