So the NFL season is over and that means no football, right? Wrong!! There’s a new game in town and it’s still football! In 2001, Vince McMahon started a new football league that was basically WWE (actually, WWF at the time) on a football field. It was real football but they cared more about the entertainment than the sport.
This past Saturday and Sunday, McMahon brought the XFL back and this time, it is all about football.
There are only eight teams, all owned by Alpha Entertainment, McMahon’s new company, all the players are paid competitive wages and each team is run by a President and GM. All the teams are playing in cities with an NFL team or have had one in the recent past.
The previous XFL did bring some cool inventions. They brought the skycam, which is a camera system on cables that makes the camera hover over the field and brings a whole new perspective. The NFL followed suit not long after. The XFL had the camera people on the field upwind from the play so they wouldn’t be in the way. They have that again. The NFL had it on the field for touchdowns and in-between play. I do wish they allowed the wide receivers to move toward the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped like they do in Arena (i.e. The Carolina Cobras) and did in the XFL the first time.
Mostly, however, the game is played like the NFL with just a few tweaks. Here is a rundown of some of those rules, per NBC LA:
The XFL aims to play each game in under three hours, but with the same amount of plays. It will have a 25-second play clock that begins after the ball is spotted for the next play. The NFL has a 40-second play clock.
Outside of the last two minutes of each half, when a play ends out of bounds or on an incomplete pass, the game clock will be stopped until the ball is spotted. In the NFL, the clock stops after every out of bounds play until the referee re-spots the ball and on incomplete passes until the next play begins.
XFL teams will have two timeouts per half, one fewer than in the NFL. Halftime is 10 minutes, two minutes less than the NFL.
Another attempt to shorten the game is not allowing coaches to challenge an official’s ruling. All plays are subject to review by the replay official.
The final two minutes of each half has been dubbed the “comeback period.” On plays ending in the field of play, the clock will be stopped until the ball has been spotted and five seconds have been run off the clock. On out-of-bounds plays, the clock will stop until the ball is snapped.
Stopping the game clock after every play in the final two minutes of a half will give the trailing team the opportunity to maximize its remaining time and still be able to use its complete playbook, including runs or plays in the middle of the field.
If a team completes a pass behind the line of scrimmage, it can throw a second forward pass as long as the ball has not crossed the line of scrimmage.
Coaches have the option of attempting a one-point conversion from the 2-yard line, a two-point conversion from the 5-yard line or a 3-point conversion from the 10-yard line after a touchdown. Kicks on conversion attempts are not allowed.
If the defense causes a turnover on a conversion attempt and is able to return the ball to the opponent’s end zone, the resulting score is equal to the number of points the offense was attempting to score.
Several changes are being made to kickoffs, both attempting to reduce high-speed collisions and the resulting injuries but also encouraging more kickoff returns.
The kickoff will be from the 30-yard line, five yards behind the NFL spot. Kickers must kick the ball in the air and in play between the opponent’s 20-yard line and the end zone.
The coverage team will line up on the return side 35-yard line and the return team on the 30-yard line. Each team must have exactly three players outside the hash marks on both sides of the ball and cannot move until the ball is caught by the returner.
Players can move when the ball is touched by the returner or three seconds after the ball touches the ground. Out-of-bounds kicks and kicks falling short of the 20-yard line will result in an illegal procedure penalty with the receiving team getting the ball on the kicking team’s 45-yard line.
If the ball is kicked into the end zone and is downed, it is a “major” touchback, and the ball is placed on the return side 35-yard line.
Teams wishing to attempt an onside kick must indicate this to an official before the play. The teams will be permitted to line up using traditional NFL rules, 10 yards apart from the spot of the kick.
The XFL has a set of rule changes designed both to increase the percentage of punts that are returned and discourage punting inside the opponent’s territory.
The punting team cannot release past the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked. In the NFL, the end man on the line of scrimmage can cross the line of scrimmage once the ball is punted. Tests of the rule found an average distance of 11 yards between the punt returner and the nearest defender, five yards more than what happens under NFL rules.
Punts going out of bounds inside the 35-yard line are considered a “major” touchback with the ball going to the 35-yard line, as are punts landing in the end zone or going out of the end zone.
If the score is tied at the end of regulation, overtime will be similar to penalty-kick shootouts in soccer or penalty-shot shootouts in the NHL.
Overtime shall consist of five rounds, staged in alternating single-play possessions. A round will consist of one offensive play per team. Each possession starts at the opponent’s 5-yard line and the offensive team has one play to score. The team with more points after five rounds is the winner.
If teams are tied after five rounds, then rounds continue until one team is leading at the conclusion of a round. The overtime will end once a team has been mathematically eliminated.
Each scoring play in overtime will be worth two points. The defense cannot score in overtime.
One of the XFL’s goals is to “try to provide as much access to the fan as we possibly can during the broadcast” including showing coaches as they speak to their teams, having officials wear microphones and allowing players to be interviewed during the game.
When I watched the games this weekend, all four teams that I was pulling for lost. The Seattle Dragons lost to the DC Defenders, LA Wildcats lost to the Houston Roughnecks, Tampa Bay Vipers lost to the New York Guardians, the Dallas Renegades lost to the St. Louis BattleHawks. That means I’m 0-4 in picks. There is also a “Team 9” that consists of 40 players that didn’t make a team that gets full practice with coaches – offensive and defensive, no special teams – that acts as a reserve for teams with injuries. Team 9 can be replenished, as far as I can tell.
This has been a better game than the AAF that tried to start up last year at this time and the attendance (average of 17,454 fans) and ratings were decent (3.12 Million). Yes, that’s a far cry from what the NFL does but it was a good start. I bet if television was around when the NFL started, the ratings and crowds would look worse than the XFL. The fact that we had a good Super Bowl probably helped. After last year’s SB, we were ready to just let football rest for the offseason.
I’m glad it’s here and I plan on watching all of the games, at least as I can. As of right now, I’m pulling for the Seattle Dragons, Tampa Bay Vipers and Dallas Renegades. I can’t believe I’m pulling for a Dallas team, but I love their uniforms and we know how I feel about unis. The games are played on Fox, ABC and ESPN. Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm and 5pm. Special thanks again to KNBC in Los Angeles for the rules clarification.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“We’re really focusing on audio because we think [it’s] audio that fans can’t get enough of.” – Oliver Luck, CEO and Commissioner of XFL