Football isn’t stepping aside for pitchers and catchers this February, bub.
Saturday night, six days after Tom Brady won his sixth Super Bowl, the eight-team Alliance of American Football will kick off with …
Wait. Scratch that. The AAF can’t kick off because, well, there are no kickoffs in this 10-week upstart league that touts itself as an unofficial complement to the NFL not only in terms of training personnel, but introducing technology and experimental rules such as:
• Possessions that begin a half or follow a score start at the 25-yard line.
• Every touchdown is followed by a two-point conversion attempt. Field goals are allowed only in regulation.
• There are no onside kicks. But teams can attempt a fourth-and-12 play from their 28-yard line when trailing by 17 points or in the last five minutes of a game.
• A ninth official will sit in the press box as a “SkyJudge” to correct “obvious and egregious” errors involving player safety throughout the game and pass interference inside of five minutes left in regulation.
• In overtime, each team gets the ball only once at first-and-goal from the 10. Field goals aren’t allowed. Games can end in a tie.
• The 35-second play clock is five seconds shorter than the NFL’s. There also are no TV timeouts, which should shorten games to 2 ½ hours.
Here’s a closer look at the eight teams:
Coach: Kevin Coyle. Former Vikings coach Brad Childress resigned as head coach last month. Michael Vick makes his coaching debut as offensive coordinator. Quarterback Aaron Murray is the SEC’s leader in career TD passes and a 2014 fifth-round pick of the Chiefs. The defense includes former Vikings linebacker Brandon Watts.
Coach: Tim Lewis. Running back Trent Richardson, the NFL’s third overall draft pick in 2012, is trying to resurrect a career that’s been dormant since 2014. Former Vikings defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell is the linebackers coach. The secondary includes former Viking Jack Tocho.
Coach: Mike Singletary. Former Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg is believed to have beaten out former Titan Zach Mettenberger.
Coach: Steve Spurrier. Former Vikings receiver Charles Johnson, who caught 60 passes for the Purple from 2014-16, is hoping the Old Ball Coach’s offensive expertise can help him resurrect his career at age 29.
Coach: Rick Neuheisel. Former Vikings on the team include punter Jeff Locke and linebacker Edmond Robinson. Former Viking Brandon Burton is the defensive backs coach.
San Diego Fleet
Coach: Mike Martz. One of the AAF’s more interesting story lines features linebacker A.J. Tarpley, the Plymouth native and former Wayzata High standout, renewing his career three years after retiring because of concussions. Tarpley was 23 and coming off his rookie season with the Bills when he announced, “I am walking away from the game I love to preserve my future health.” He suffered the third and fourth concussions of his career as an NFL rookie in 2015. Former Gophers on the roster are backup quarterback Philip Nelson, safety Damarius Travis and defensive tackle Andrew Stelter.
Salt Lake Stallions
Coach: Dennis Erickson. Matt Asiata, who led the Vikings in rushing in 2014, heads the backfield. Tight end Nick Truesdell, a former Viking and Bemidji Axeman of the Indoor Football League, also made the team.
San Antonio Commanders
Coach: Mike Riley. Former Gophers running back David Cobb should start. Linebacker Jayrone Elliott played 38 games for the Packers from 2014-16.
Overall quarterback play promises to be rudimentary at best considering the top pick in the league’s QB draft was Josh Johnson, the 32-year-old journeyman who was subsequently plucked off the Fleet’s roster by the Washington Redskins.
But, ready or not, football with some intriguing tweaks will be sticking around on CBS and NFL Network from now until a two-week playoff crowns the first AAF champion on April 27.
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org