It has been a wild day for the spring AAF Spring football league, and in the words of legendary late actor Jack Palance and his character “Curley” in 1990s comedy movie “City Slickers” – “Day ain’t over yet.”
First, comes the information that the Alliance’s Chairman of the Board, Thomas Dundon– owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, has decided to suspend operations for the inaugural season after eight weeks of play. Dundon infused the league with a reported $70 million cash investment back in February to take over control.
Next, Dundon has given on-the-record interviews last week and again on Monday threatening to cease the AAF’s operations. That’s if there was not an agreement in place with the NFL Players Association for access to quality players and a pipeline to the NFL.
Dundon will apparently inform the players of his decision to suspend operations in a 5 p.m. statement that will be released to them.
A league source said to F.F.I. via text response Tuesday afternoon, “it’s done (the league). He was the guy with the money. Nobody can get paid now.”
However, that’s not the whole story.
Not even close.
First, coach Steve Spurrier of Orlando Apollo’s confirmed to local Orlando TV they are being told the league is suspended. He took it a step further and said while disappointed, the Apollos should be considered league champions with their 7 – 1 record:
— Christian Bruey (@CBrueyWFTV) April 2, 2019
This came on the heels of Spurrier telling the Orlando Sentinel on Monday night the league had enough money to finish the regular season over the next two weeks and play the postseason it late in April.
Next, came the reporting of Ben Kercheval of CBSSports.com, who has been covering the AAF since it began. Kercheval reported earlier Tuesday afternoon that league founders Charlie Ebersol and former NFL executive Bill Polian, have been fighting with Dundon for 24 hours about his decision to stop playing, despite the fact that the league met payroll on Friday prior to this weekend’s playing of games.
When we presented our source with Kercheval’s reporting that Polian and Ebersol were trying to potentially keep the league afloat (at least for the postseason) our source conceded: that there may be other options that not everyone knows about yet for Tuesday or in the near future.
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer tweeted earlier in the day that one of Dundons main motivations was apparently to gain access to the gambling app technology and user data from the games being played that the AAF already had in place. And, by infusing the league, he would be able to own that technology and use it for other opportunities or ventures.
Perception inside the AAF is that Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon bought a majority stake in the league simply for the gambling app being developed.
Source: "Dundon got the technology he wanted and he's now minus one rather large headache."
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 2, 2019
This is yet another example of what is apparently being fought about at the highest level of the AAF on Tuesday afternoon behind the scenes.
And further, common sense indicates that if Ebersol, Polian and others (besides Dundon) wanted to cancel the remaining two weekends of the regular season (saving money in the short term), they would still be able to play the postseason in a couple of weeks by emerging with other funding, if they wanted.
Orlando at 7 – 1 and Birmingham already clinched the Eastern Playoff spots outright. The AAF could declare Arizona and San Antonio as the Western Conference playoff teams, as they are both 5 – 3 and two games in front of the other two Western teams after eight weeks.
The Alliance is scheduled to have semifinal games on April 20th and then, play their championship game on Saturday night April 27th at the Dallas Cowboys practice facility known as “The Star” in Frisco, Texas.
XFL unveiled new rules for reboot season Tuesday morning
The reboot of Vince McMahon’s eight team XFL Spring football league is coming in 30 days, including with the Tampa Bay Vipers franchise. And on Tuesday, the league unveiled new rules designed to create more excitement and speed up the game.
The short version is: the XFL has new and exciting rules for kickoffs, punts, faster clock/timing and other variations or wrinkles for the games.
Former NFL Head of Officiating, Dean Blandino, is now overseeing the XFL officials and their new rules/ policies.
And Blandino did a online and on social media tutorial on Tuesday for the rules that are different from college and NFL football. And, he gave the rationale behind them. An example, of probably the most intriguing one is the kickoff, as he explained here:
This is less stall, more ball. See the rules live when the XFL kicks off Sat, Feb. 8. #ForTheLoveOfFootball
— XFL (@xfl2020) January 7, 2020
As Blandino laid out, unlike their first XFL playing in 2001, when opening possession was determined by two players on opposite sides of a football running at a sprint and trying to grab it first, there will be an actual kickoff, but with changes from what you are used to.
Now, the XFL will try something innovative to not only create excitement, but also help with player safety on the kickoff. Instead of allowing the kicking team to run full sprint at the receiving blockers and returner, the coverage team will line up at their own 30 with the kicking team lining up only five yards in front of them at the 35.
However, the only players who are allowed to move are the kicker, kicking off and the returner until he has either caught the ball or the ball has been live on the ground for at least three seconds. That’s when the blocking players between the 30 in the 35 can move or try to make the tackle.
Also, if the kicker kicks the ball out of the end zone or out of bounds it will automatically come up to the 35-yard line or to the out-of-bounds spot if it’s greater than the 35 for the receiving team.
Teams may also a traditional onside kick under the NFL rules, but they must designate that to the officials prior to, and then teams will traditionally lineup for the onside try.
As for punts and returns, the XFL will not allow the punting team to leave the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked and the defenders over the top of gunners will not be allowed to go into the backfield until it is kicked. This is to give a much bigger advantage to the returner to make a big play
Just as with the kickoff, if the punt team kicks out of bounds inside the 35-yard line it will come back to the 35 or will go to the spot, if it’s greater than the 35-yard line for the receiving team.
If the ball lands in the end zone or is all the way out of the endzone on a punt it will also come to the 35 yard line. Clearly, the XFL is trying to encourage more excitement with punt returns and a fair catch will be allowed, although it is greatly de-emphasized, now.
Also, they want teams to think more about going for it on fourth down, as the punt favors the return team so greatly.
Next, Blandino made clear that an XFL receiver will, just like in college, only need one foot down or an equivalent for a catch. This differs from the two feet necessary in the NFL.
The XFL also announced that there will be no coaches challenges for replays, however, again like college, all plays will be under review. And, the replay official has the right to initiate certain reviews, even if the officials didn’t rule it on the field like fumble / no fumble, or out of bounds or not, etc.
The XFL also has interesting “running clock” timing rules that will differ from the NFL and college, in that incomplete passes, penalties and plays out of bounds will not stop the clock at all until the final two minutes.
Further the XFL will use a 25 second play clock only and designate one specific official whose sole job it is to make sure that the ball is spotted quickly,
Once inside the 2-minute warning if a play ends in the field of play the clock will only stop for that official to spot the ball and once five Seconds runoff the play clock, it will start again.
To increase scoring chances, on an incomplete or out of bounds play inside of 2 minutes, the clock will stop just like it does for the NFL and college football.
The new Spring league will allow field goal attempts, but not have kicking extra points.
Instead, the offensive team will have a chance to run one play (conversion) but choose to run the play from the 1, 5 or 10 yard line. They will receive 1, 2 or 3 points depending on where the play started. Also, the defensive team would be able to score 1, 2 or 3 points on a fumble or INT return.
Finally, the XFL will also take another very interesting idea to playing out their overtimes.
Instead of the college rule of each team getting a possession from the 25-yard line to score a touchdown or field goal. Or, the NFL “modified sudden death rules” that don’t guarantee that both teams touch the ball. if the first team scores a touchdown (like what happened to the Saints Sunday when the Vikings scored a TD on the opening possession), the XFL will give both teams chances to possess it in a 5 round OT.
The XFL will utilize a format like the NHL post-overtime “shootout” where each team will have the ball spotted on the 5-yard line with the offense getting to run one play.
No kicks will be allowed.
If there is a defensive penalty on the play that is unsuccessful, then ball is moved to the 1-yard line for re-try. If there is a second defensive penalty in overtime, then the offensive team will automatically be awarded it’s two points for that round. And any subsequent defensive penalty, will again be the automatic awarding of two points during the overtime to the offense.
And, importantly, the defense cannot score, even if there is a possible fumble or interception return. The play in the XFL will be ruled dead or over.
The two teams will continue playing the five round OT until one has an insurmountable lead over the other. If the two teams are tied after five rounds, it’s essentially sudden death of two point rounds until there is a leader / winner.
Some of these rules will create excitement and also, controversy, and that’s what McMahon, XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck (above), and Blandino are intending to have.
The Vipers are coached by former Bears coach Mark Trestman and will be playing home games at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Colts Kicker Adam Vinateri out for Bucs game
The Colts are traveling to Tampa Bay but will likely take on the Bucs without their future Hall of Fame Kicker, Adam Vinatieri.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 5, 2019
Before the matchup last week against the Titans, Vinatieri had began to experience a bit of pain in his left knee, the leg he plants to kick with his right leg. He told reporters that the pain began to increase through the week which led him to be placed on the Colt’s injury report for the first time this season.
Later Friday afternoon, Indy made Vinatieri’s “out” status official:
Per Coach Reich, RB Marlon Mack and WR Parris Campbell are expected to play Sunday.
More on who's in and who's out for #INDvsTB:
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) December 6, 2019
Vinatieri who is currently the NFL’s all-time leading scorer, has struggled to be consistent this season and has made a career-low 68% of his field goal attempts. He’s cost the Colt’s a couple of games in his missed eight field goals and six extra points.
Colts head coach Frank Reich said Wednesday that Vinatieri saw some doctors and got scans to figure out the severity of the problem. From there, they’ll consult with doctors and make a decision, which could potentially end his career. He’s currently sitting at 599 made FGs in his 24 seasons, just one shy of the 600 mark.
Earlier this week, Indianapolis secured rookie kicker Chase McLaughlin off waivers from the San Francisco 49ers and the 45 year old Pro Bowler had said on Thursday that if he got the go ahead from everyone, he’d take the field on Sunday.
“Docs and trainers and everybody will put their two cents in and we’ll see if we can go,” Vinatieri said. “If I can go, I’ll go.”
Obviously, he did not get good news, and that means the rookie McLaughlin is in to kick at Raymond James Stadium.
The Colts are looking to stay in the race for the AFC wild card spot, in a similar situation as the Bucs, so this Sunday (and really every Sunday from here on out) is a do or die for both teams.
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