Nineteen years after the first incarnation, the XFL is returning this weekend with its initial slate of four games — featuring the league’s eight franchises across three networks.
There will be some familiar faces on the field and some provocative rules changes to drink in.
In the first game in the history of the new XFL, the DC Defenders will host the Seattle Dragons at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday on ABC. Later Saturday, the L.A. Wildcats will take on the host Houston Roughnecks at 5 p.m. on FOX. Sunday’s doubleheader features the Tampa Bay Vipers at New York Guardians at 2 p.m. ET on FOX and the St. Louis BattleHawks traveling to face the Dallas Renegades at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN.
While the 2001 version was known for its over-the-top presentation and rules, the revamped XFL promises less histrionics, but some notable rules changes.
Perhaps the most notable rules are no extra points kicks and the ability to throw to forward passes.
The latter allows teams to throw forward passes twice on one play, but the passes must be behind the line of scrimmage. Once the ball has gone beyond the line of scrimmage, no forward passes are allowed.
As for the no PATS, there will be three other options. Teams are offered the choices of going for one-point via two-yard conversion, they can go for two points from the 5-yard line or go for three points from the 10-yard line. Hence, a touchdown could equate to a team scoring as few as six points or as many as nine.
Further special teams alterations will see kickoffs from the 30-yard line with the coverage team lining up at the 35 and the return team lining up at the 30. Players can only move when the ball is touched by the returner. There will also be no surprise onside kicks, as a team wishing to attempt an onside kick must tell the official before the play.
And, XFL games are likely to move a lot quicker. An eighth official is being added with the sole role of spotting the ball. As soon as the spot is made, the 25-second play clock begins — yes, the 25-second play clock. Except when less than two minutes remains in each half, incompletions and going out of bounds will not stop the game clock.
Perhaps the biggest link between the former version and the revamped is owner Vince McMahon, who most famously owns and promotes World Wrestling Entertainment. McMahon chose Oliver Luck, a former NFL player and father of Andrew Luck, as the XFL’s commissioner.
There should be some recognizable names on the field and on the sidelines, as well.
Notable players include: Marquette King (punter, St. Louis BattleHawks), Josh Johnson (quarterback, L.A. Wildcats), Matt Jones (running back, St. Louis BattleHawks), Jay Bromley (defensive lineman, DC Defenders), Christine Michael (running back, St. Louis BattleHawks), Derron Smith (defensive back, Dallas Renegades), Kony Ealy (defensive end, Houston Roughnecks), Will Sutton (defensive lineman, Seattle Dragons), Cardale Jones (quarterback, DC Defenders), Antonio Callaway (wide receiver, Tampa Bay Vipers), Connor Cook (quarterback, Houston Roughnecks) and Landry Jones (quarterback, Dallas Renegades).
As for the coaches, Bob Stoops is likely the most high-profile as the former Oklahoma coach is now leading the Dallas Renegades. NFL alums June Jones (Houston Roughnecks), Kevin Gilbride (New York Guardians), Marc Trestman (Tampa Bay Vipers), Winston Moss (L.A. Wildcats) and Jim Zorn (Seattle Dragons) are also on board.
A new league is kicking off Saturday with some familiar faces and unconventional rules. And, if nothing more, will satiate the most avid gridiron fans during the NFL offseason.