With the NFL season coming to a close on Sunday with Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta, the brand new spring Alliance of American Football league is ready to launch the following week. And the AAF’s franchise in our own state, the Orlando Apollos, have finalized their roster to begin the year.
It’s no surprise that many of the names are players from Florida schools, or at least the South, as the AAF broke team roster pools up by territories.
First, the team is coached by Gators legendary former Heisman Trophy winning a national championship coach Steve Spurrier. So it’s no surprise if there are recognizable quarterbacks to run his offense.
Former Gator QB Austin Appleby who transferred for one final season to Gainesville after playing at Purdue is on the roster of the Apollos. Another one of the other players competing for the QB job is Garrett Gilbert, who played both at Texas and SMU, while a third quarterback is Kevin Anderson, who threw for a ton of yards at Fordham and is originally from Boca Raton.
Interesting in the receiving corps, that former Buccaneers wideout Donteea Dye is on the roster, as a veteran and players like Ronnell Hall of UCF and Marvin Bracy-Williams of Florida State will also be trying to catch some passes.
Back to Spurrier, “The Head Ball Coach,” who will be 74 in April, was lured back to coaching by going back to the beginnings of him being on a sideline with headphones on and calling “some ball plays.” Spurrier was the highly successful coach of the United States Football League’s Tampa Bay Bandits in the mid-1980’s.
He later went on to coach at Duke, leading them to the 1989 ACC title before returning to his alma matter, where he had won the Heisman Trophy, and became the most flamboyant (and annoying to opponents) personality in southern coaching. Spurrier won SEC championship six times and eventually the 1996 National Championship while in Gainesville. He remains the Gators winningest coach with 122 victories.
He later tried coaching in the NFL with the Redskins, but failed miserably and quit after two seasons. Spurrier took a year off, and then, coached at South Carolina for 11 years (2005-15) winning another 86 games before retiring, again.
There are also some other recognizable names with state ties, like Quinterrius Eatmon of USF is a massive 6-6 offensive tackle. So too, is former Florida free safety Will Hill and Miami defensive back LaDarius Gunter is also on the initial roster.
The Apollo’s will begin their regular-season play on their 10 games schedule on Saturday Night February 9th against the Atlanta Legends at Spectrum Stadium on UCF campus.
QB Murray out again for XFL Vipers home opener
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.
Report- new 17th game for NFL teams will all be International
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:
Some added details on CBA being voted on by players today:
—Playoff expansion is pretty much tied to CBA approval. So likely no expansion this year if players don’t approve the deal.
—17th game wouldn’t be an international game for every team. Would be a cap on total intl games.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) February 21, 2020
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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