One of the highly unique features of the XFL this inaugural season is the creation of a “Team Nine” which in essence is the league-wide practice squad. Unlike NFL teams, the XFL will draw upon a ready and available pool of players who will literally be sitting and waiting for a phone call from any team in this new league.
Team Nine will carry about 35-40 active players in all positions and each player will stay in top playing shape just in case a team does call and need an immediate replacement at for a specific position. Long time coach Bart Andrus, an NFL Europe alumnus along with Oliver Luck, has reportedly been hired to be the Team Nine head coach. The XFL has decided to keep this Team Nine together and create a league practice squad with players who can report to their new team in hours. XFL commissioner Luck explains the concept behind Team Nine:
We want to have a group of guys that will be based in Dallas who basically are staying in shape . . . We think that because of our 25-second play clock our game is going to require quite honestly a little bit better conditioning that what some of these guys may be used to in the NFL or the CFL. So it’s important that these guys are in shape, and it’s hard to stay in football shape on your own. That’s been one of my beliefs. You need to be around others. – Oliver Luck – Pro Football Talk, 6/18/19
Furthermore, one of the major purposes of keeping Team Nine around is to discourage XFL teams from having to find players on the street who may or may not be in football playing shape. In the NFL, a player brought in on a contract who injures himself at any time becomes a workers’ compensation issue and forces a team to go and locate yet another player to replace the injured one. For the XFL, assigning a game-ready player to Team Nine is a prudent measure in mitigating legal and insurance costs and also means that each player on this roster has to be ready at a moment’s notice to get on a plane or bus and immediately start playing on an XFL active roster. Although this new league practice squad may not sound like an earth-shattering change in professional sports, the XFL is infusing new ideas not only into football but the Team Nine concept may carry over into leagues. One thing is almost certain this upcoming season-Team Nine players will more than likely end up being on active rosters so start paying attention to these players- they may be starting for your favorite XFL team next week.
From Virginia Tech to the Houston Roughnecks. The journey of Long Snapper Colton Taylor starts in Virginia.
During his tenure at Salem High School he lettered three times. Taylor was an invited walk-on for the Hokies. During his redshirt senior season in 2016, he appeared in all games for the Hokies. During his time at Virginia Tech, Taylor made numerous plays on Special Teams. While playing against West Virginia on a spectacular punt that took a friendly roll Taylor darted after the ball and recovered it inside the five of the West Virginia. This was one of many plays that Taylor made during his time at Virginia Tech.
His same athleticism has transitioned over now to his time with the Roughnecks. After being drafted by the Houston Roughnecks in the inaugural XFL Draft, he has spent time with his fellow specialists. They have formed a unique bond. Kicker Sergio Castillo and Taylor have continued to work on their timing. Taylor continues to show why he played and started at Virginia Tech. Each snap that I’ve seen has been on target.
During the Roughnecks scrimmage against the LA Wildcats, Taylor was part of the reason why the Roughnecks got points on certain drives. As Taylor hiked the ball, punter Austin Rehkow held the ball and Castillo was successful on his field goals.
Taylor is constantly trying to improve his game and is very humble. Taylor appreciates all the support.
Be sure to catch him and the Roughnecks in action on Saturday, February 8, 2020. Kick-off is set for 4 p.m. CT from TDECU Stadium in Houston, Texas. If you can’t make the game, watch the game live on FOX.
There is a saying, “Once a Ranger, always a Ranger.” For former Ranger, Colin Jeter, the Seattle Dragons are home.
Jeter, a Tight End who had his beginnings with the Kilgore College Rangers went on to play in the SEC with the LSU Tigers. Jeter was a two-year starter and three-year letterwinner at tight end for the Tigers. He played in 35 games in LSU career, starting 17 times. As a Tiger he finished his career with 23 receptions for 289 yards and 2 TD’s. He was a three-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll.
After succeeding in college at one of the highest stages, Jeter went on to be a member of the Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL.
Jeter was then drafted by the Seattle Dragons in the inaugural XFL Draft. While with the Dragons, Jeter has made plays throughout training camp. Jeter offers the Dragons skills in both blocking and receiving. Be sure to look for him make plays all this season.
The Dragons will battle the DC Defenders on Saturday, February 8, 2020. Kick-off is set for 2 pm ET and the game will be broadcasted on ABC.
The New York Guardians have completed training camp in Houston. The team will be heading back home today.
Training camp officially ended on Tuesday for the Guardians’, with a live scrimmage against their week one opponent, the Tampa Bay Vipers. New York will host this rematch at MetLife Stadium in each team’s 2020 season opener on Sunday, Feb. 9 (2 p.m. ET, FOX).
New York and Tampa ended training camp together. They will also be starting and ending the regular season against each other, in weeks one and ten. To quote T.S. Eliot, “In my end is my beginning.”
It’s not standard practice in football for week one opponents to practice against each other before their first game. Both team staffs were put in a unique position, having to get their teams ready for the opener without putting all their cards on the table. Tuesday’s scrimmage was a dry run for both sides, and a dress rehearsal for Fox and the referees.
The final score of the Guardians’ scrimmage was New York 27 Tampa 15. The outcome itself wasn’t that important. For New York, training camp has been a mixed bag. The Guardians’ defense has been ahead of the game thus far. New York’s offense has had its struggles, and there have been quite a few changes to the roster since mini-camp ended back in late December. (More on that later).
The performance of New York’s QB1 in the scrimmage, Matt McGloin, was reflective of training-camp for the Guardians offense. McGloin threw for three touchdowns but also turned the ball over twice with two interceptions. After the game, McGloin admitted that the Guardians are still working through issues of consistency on offense. The clock is ticking with the season fast approaching.
There are three New York receivers, that figure to be key cogs in the passing game. DeAngelo Yancey, Mekale McKay, and Tanner Gentry. The competition behind those three has been wide-open.
Two wideouts who have emerged in recent weeks, shined in Tuesday’s scrimmage. Teo Redding and Colby Pearson. Both players made a strong case for significant roles come Sunday, Feb. 9. Redding, the former Bowling Green standout, had several big catches against Tampa. A 36-yard touchdown and a one-point conversion in the first half. BYU’s Colby Pearson had an unconventional 76-yard touchdown grab. Pearson made a big catch down the field, landed inside the 30, then realizing that he wasn’t touched, rose to his feet and raced to the end-zone. Another receiver that is making his case for a spot is Justice Liggins. He made a great 30-yard contested-catch during the scrimmage. Another late transplant on the Guardians roster, Austin Duke scored on a Marquise Williams touchdown pass. The New York staff has some tough roster decisions to make at receiver.
The Guardians’ defense stood out again in Houston. LSU’s Terrence Alexander has been one of the stars of New York’s camp. The player that LSU’s Ed Orgeron called one of the smartest players, he has ever been around, completed camp in Houston, with another stellar performance during this scrimmage. Alexander has been all over the field making plays all January, from the safety, nickel and outside corner position.
TRANSACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS (VOLUME THREE)
Two weeks ago, New York jettisoned three receivers off their roster and brought three new ones in to replace them. Last week, New York traded for two offensive linemen from St. Louis in Avery Young and Dejon Allen.
On Sunday, the Guardians traded Charles ‘Chad’ Kanoff to Los Angeles for Luis Perez. The trade raised a lot of eyebrows in XFL circles. Kanoff was running fourth at Quarterback for New York in camp. Luis Perez was LA’s assigned QB back in October. The situation for Perez in LA changed a month later when Josh Johnson made his way from the NFL to the Wildcats.
The trade has people questioning the motivations of both parties involved. On the New York side of things, Is the team hedging their bets on their projected starter McGloin, or their projected backup Marquise Williams? Perez is coming on board with New York, late in the process of season preparation. Head Coach Kevin Gilbride has a history of crowded quarterback rooms. How he and the New York staff handle the position in the coming weeks should be fascinating to watch.
The New York Guardians pulled off another trade on Monday night. This time, they were partaking in a unique three-team trade. The DC Defenders added Guard Kahlil McKenzie to their active list and then shipped him to Los Angeles. The Wildcats sent Guard Damien Mama to New York. To complete the trade, Safety Shamarko Thomas, who the Guardians had the rights to, was sent to DC.
Damien Mama is the third offensive lineman that New York has added in less than a week. Seven offensive linemen that the Guardians drafted in October are no longer on the teams’ active roster. Three of the team’s top five selections in Phase 2 of the O-Line draft are out. (Cyrus Koandjio, Parker Collins and Zac Kerin). Offensive Tackle Jarron Jones seems locked into a starting job. He was New York’s top pick. Center Ian Silberman has returned from injury to solidify the pivot. The other three starting spots are all up for grabs.
The Guardians will be paring down their roster from 70 to 52 over the course of the next few days. The official 52 player list will not be made public until Monday.
There will be so many moving parts, between now and the start of the season. At this point, you can’t rule out more trades or even new acquisitions. All eight XFL teams are fine-tuning their teams even with the regular-season looming on the horizon.
At the risk of looking foolish, I am going to project the Guardians 52 player roster. Similar to NFL cutdown day, there will be surprise cuts. The waiver process could produce new players that are not currently on the New York roster.
Quarterbacks: Matt McGloin, Marquise Williams, and Luis Perez (3)
I wouldn’t rule out a trade. The Guardians have three capable starters in house. Garrett Fugate has had some excellent moments during camp and has a live arm. He’s a candidate for Team-Nine if he doesn’t sneak on the roster.
Running Backs: Tim Cook, Darius Victor, Justin Stockton, and Matthew Colburn (4)
Cook and Victor are two bowling ball type bruisers. Colburn can do a little bit of everything. Stockton is fast and provides an excellent contrast to the power runners on the team.
Wide Receivers: DeAngelo Yancey, Mekale McKay, Tanner Gentry, Teo Redding, Colby Pearson, Bernard Reedy, and Justice Liggins (7)
The Guardians could keep eight receivers. They recently added Austin Duke and Darius Prince. New York also traded for Joe Horn Jr. Reedy is the most accomplished returner at the receiver position, but if New York’s staff feels that one of their younger receivers can handle the role. Reedy could be out.
Tight Ends: EJ Bibbs, Jake Powell, and Jake Sutherland. (3)
The lack of a traditional fullback could see New York retain four at this position. It would come at the expense of another area.
Offensive Line: Jarron Jones, Ian Silberman, John Kling, Avery Young, Damien Mama, Dejon Allen, Anthony Coyle, and Garrett Brumfield (8)
The ability to play multiple positions could aid a few players in sticking to the roster and help the coaching staff in activating players on game day.
Defensive Line: TJ Barnes, Joey Mbu, Bunmi Rotini, Jarrell Owens, Victor Ochi, Rykeem Yates, and Cavon Walker (7)
There will be some good players left off this roster. Rotini and Owens have star potential as edge rushers. Yates and Walker are tweener DE/DT’s. Barnes and Mbu are big-time space eaters inside.
Linebackers: Ben Heeney, D’Juan Hines, Nick DeLuca, Frank Ginda, Ryan Mueller, Darnell Leslie, and Jawaun Johnson (7)
The XFL rules may dictate that defenses play more nickel and dime sets in the XFL. As a result, the Guardians may decide to keep fewer linebackers on their roster.
Defensive Backs: Jamar Summers, Terrence Alexander, Dravon Askew-Henry, Demetrious Cox, DeJuan Neal, Bryce Jones, Andrew Soroh, AJ Hendy, Ranthony Texada, and Tre Mathis (10)
You could make the argument for all twelve Guardians defensive backs making the roster. The numbers game is a factor. Traditionally, a team will keep six corners and four safeties. New York’s front office knocked this position out of the park. Many of these players may not be household names, but they will be by seasons end.
Special Teams: (3)
Kicker: Matthew McCrane Punter: Justin Vogel Long Snapper: Scott Daly
It’s been a long road to get to this point. The regular season is almost upon us. Sometimes, the most exciting things in life are the unknown. In a first-year league, you don’t have the luxury of years past, to define what a team is like. All eight XFL franchises are trying to forge brand new identities. The games themselves will determine each team’s personality. Two weeks from this Sunday, the New York Guardians’ football team is called on duty.
The Houston Roughnecks battled the LA Wildcats on Tuesday, January 21 at TDECU Stadium in Houston.
The Roughnecks came out with the typical June Jones explosive offense. Kicker #7 Sergio Castillo blasted two successful field goals. Perfect snaps from Long Snapper #58 Colten Taylor made it easy for Castillo to connect on a 47 yard field goal. This is nothing new as Castillo was an CFL All-Star last season in BC.
The scoring went in favor of the Roughnecks during the first half. Connor Cook found Kahlil Lewis for the 82 yard score. The Roughnecks bench exploded with cheers. At the half, the score was 18 to 8.
The third quarter begun with the Wildcats coming out seeking a comeback. The comeback came with numerous plays made by Quarterback Chad Kanoff. He found Wide Receivers Kermit Whitfield and Saeed Blacknall for the scores. The Wildcats attempted for a two point conversion attempt and it was successful. The score was 20 to 18 and the Wildcats took the lead.
The Roughnecks continued to fight back but the lead continued to grow. The Wildcats went up 23 to 18 as the final portion of regulation was complete. Penalties caused issues for both teams all game.
Going into the Overtime portion of the game, the Roughnecks needed five points to clearly win the game if this was a regular game. Neither team scored until the fourth attempt when the Roughnecks scored. Each team was given five attempts each to score one point for a successful conversion. The Wildcats did not convert on any of them. The Roughnecks won the Overtime portion 1 to 0.
The Roughnecks will host the Wildcats for the Regular Season Opener of the XFL on Saturday, February 8, 2020 at 4 p.m. on FOX.
Saturday morning in Houston was gloomy, dark, rainy, and humid combined together. Some would say it’s a good day to stay indoors and enjoy the start of the weekend. For XFL teams, it was the perfect day to scrimmage each other and end the second full week of training camp on a high notes. The Dallas Renegades were looking to do the same from W.W. Throne Stadium against the St. Louis BattleHawks.
The Renegades have been in the headlines for the XFL with the major news involving quarterback Landry Jones, the trades they have been making, and the recent signing of quarterback Eric Dungey. They have been under the spotlight of training camp with the amount of big names within the franchise as they push for a West Division title and an XFL Title.
Eric Dungey Suffers Injury, Philip Nelson Leading Quarterback Battle
Eric Dungey made headlines when he joined the Renegades the day after the Landry Jones injury to serve as the backup quarterback to Philip Nelson. Things got interesting after Dungey’s first workout with the team in Houston. According to offensive coordinator Hal Mumme when speaking with XFL Board, Dungey pulled his hamstring after just one workout and has been working through the injury.
“He appears to be athletic and he’s got a strong arm in the little bit we have seen him I was impressed,” coach Mumme said. “We’ll have to get him well and be able to work with.”
During Saturday’s scrimmage practice with the BattleHawks, Dungey did not suit up only wearing his number seven red jersey. He did throw during seven-on-seven drills, but Nelson took all the snaps when the teams played full offense versus full defense. While spectators were not able to see his mobility, Dungey’s arm looked good. He had quite the rip on the ball as he displayed great velocity on his deep passes. There were times he overthrew his receivers, but that could have a lot to do with his hamstring and being limited on his movement. Nelson got off to a good start as he looked good on his deep passes and seems to be developing good chemistry with his receivers. Both coach Mumme and head coach Bob Stoops have been pleased with what they have saw out of the quarterback in Jones’ absence.
“I think he’s done great,” coach Mumme said. “He was like 90% for the day (Friday). He’s done a great job throwing competitions, keeping the game moving. He has gotten better and better each day in his leadership ability and stuff like that. He’s stepped up and I think the team has really rallied around him.”
“Philip’s (Nelson) has really done a great job. Especially in the last three-four practices, he’s really picked it up. You can tell he’s getting more and more comfortable with everything we’re doing and the added repetition, he’s continued to really improve. ”
Update on Landry Jones Injury
Landry Jones did not throw passes at camp on Saturday, but Bob Stoops told XFL Board that Jones has been making good progress in his rehab back onto the field.
“Seems to be healing fine,” coach Stoops said. “Still unsure how many more weeks it will be, but he’s feeling better and better everyday.”
In a post on Sunday by the Renegades team, Jones was seen on the field with the team throughout his time in Houston working with teammates and the quarterbacks helping them get accustomed to the air-raid offense. His leadership skills have been on display since he joined the team and continues to be the man running the show even if he is sidelined. No word yet as to whether the team expects him to start week one of the season against the BattleHawks.
Running Back Competition is Fierce
One of the toughest battles to determine a winner of during training camp has been the running back competition as five running backs are going for the top spot. The battle is tight as the competition is between Cameron Artis-Payne, Lance Dunbar, Austin Walter, Marquis Young, and Darnell Holland. Renegades running back coach Bobby Blizzard and the rest of the coaching staff know they will have a difficult decision to make when all is said and done in Houston.
“They’re making it hard on me every day. I go to sleep thinking that if I lose any of these guys, I’ll be heartbroken,”coach Blizzard said to XFL.com in a recent interview. “Still, to this day and this moment, if it came down to cuts, I still wouldn’t know who to pick. I would need the whole staff to bounce ideas off them and see what they think of each kid.”
“It has truly been a competition,” coach Mumme told XFL Board. “You got two veterans guys in Lance Dunbar and Cam Artis-Payne who have really provided a lot of leadership. They play well, they know what to do. But they have helped bring along Marquis Young who really is a great competitor. Austin Walter has had a good camp. Darnell Holland is a guy who’s learning the running back position, but he played in an offense in college that was like a Flexbone deal as the wingback so he’s had to learn a lot of stuff, but has incredible speed. He’s really someone we’ve enjoyed working with.”
One thing that has been very apparent with the running backs has been their athletic abilities to catch the ball out of the backfield. Walter had a big day as he was able to catch a tough over the shoulder diving catch that wowed and fired up the sidelines. Young and Holland ran the ball hard as the three are all fighting for spots on the team. It seems as though Artis-Payne and Dunbar could find their ways onto the squad. It’s a matter of how many running backs will the team carry and which of them will make the cut.
Receivers Impressing the Coaching Staff
There has been a lot of movement at the receiver position, but there is no denying that there is a ton of speed and talent within the group. There have been several players that have stood out in the pack as the leaders. Jeff Badet has had a great training camp and that comes at no surprise with his knowledge of the offense and the strong chemistry he has been building with Landry Jones. The one player everyone has been talking about though: Jazz Ferguson. Ferguson is poised for big things this season as he has been known for making spectacular catches and being difficult to cover one-on-one. They have no doubt caught the attention of the offensive coaching staff along with the other receivers.
“Yeah there’s been some big play guys there definitely,” coach Stoops said. “Jazz is such a big target to make big plays. Jeff Badet has such speed to make big plays. A lot of others guys are really stepping up. Flynn Nagel inside is a really sure handed guy with great route running. It’s a good group.”
During Saturday’s camp, newcomer Freddie Martino is quickly making noise as he displayed some nice route running and great hands. Despite the fact that he is coming onto the team late after being traded, Martino has already shown that he is on his way to making the roster and could get playing time. The tough part as well for the coaches is the fact that several players have played well. Coach Mumme spoke very highly of the group and how they are performing.
“Overall, it’s been a task to try to sort out who’s going to make the club,” coach Mumme said. “Mainly because they’re all so even. Of course, we traded Stacy (Coley), brought in Freddie Martino who had a great day yesterday (Friday).”
Along with Badet, Ferguson, and Martino, we have seen several other receivers stepping up. Simmie Cobbs, Flynn Nagel, and Jerrod Heard had big days Saturday and have continued to play efficiently. Cobbs will provide some needed outside skills catching the ball while Nagel makes for a perfect Wes Welker-type in the slot. Not to mention Heard has proven to be a physical receiver who seem to have caught every ball thrown his way against the BattleHawks secondary. The coaching staff will have some tough decisions Wednesday when they start making cuts.
Defense Hitting Hard and Learning Harder
The defense had to have been excited once training camp started as they finally got to suit up and tackle for the first time since joining the XFL. Mini-camp for the defenders was learning the 3-4 system that defensive coordinator Chris Woods has implemented into the defense. A scheme that requires a lot of speed and a lot of thinking on their feet to react.
“They’re a smart group,” coach Woods told XFL Board. “The focus on this one was a little bit more of a technique and toughness and see who’s going to play ball the right way and learn the rules. You know you have a reimagined game and there are some things we have to work around defensively. That’s awesome. I think there’s some great, exciting additions, but it is a little bit how you coach it.”
Some of the rule changes that is more geared towards the offense includes the one foot inbounds, the double forward pass, and the new point after conversions. Despite the new changes, the challenge of a more offensive-friendly rules doesn’t seem to faze the defensive coaching staff.
“Our number one job is to be an extension of the offense and to keep us in the game,” coach Woods said. “We can’t control the rules. Wherever they spot the ball and whatever they tell us the rules are, we are going to try to go up and stop them. It’s more of just educating the guys. Certain things they are not used to from the NFL or going back to college.”
The defense is filled with veterans and big play players from their days in the NFL and some of the Alliance of American Football including guys like Frank Alexander, Jonathan Massaquoi, Derron Smith, and Josh Hawkins. The team as a unit has been too good to point out one guy who has played well. Woods talked a lot about the linebackers like Greer Martini and Ray Ray Davison have played well along with the strong play from Smith and the rest of the secondary. They were on full display going up against the BattleHawks stacked offense and will have something to say when the season starts.
Special Teams is Pretty Special
One of the questions after the team waived long snapper Owen Gilbert was who the Renegades were going to turn to in regards to handling long snapping duties. It appears that linebacker Christian Kuntz will be taking over those duties. Kuntz was brought onto the team late last month and has done work in the past as a long snapper so the team will turn to him to handle those duties and looks to go into the season as the man in the middle of the line on field goals and punts.
Austin MacGinnis was one of the sharpest looking players at camp with his performance on field goals. He was perfect during his time on the field as he is displaying a strong leg and every kick he made looked like he was hitting them right in-between the uprights. While special teams seems to be under-appreciated especially since they have eliminated kicks on extra points, MacGinnis will have to make the most of his time on the field.
The kickoff coverage did take a hit as they get used to the new alignment as they saw a familiar foe get through the line of defense easily for a big return. Former Renegades wide receiver Keith Mumphrey seems to be making the most of his time with the BattleHawks as he returned a kickoff without being touched on the Renegades as he got a small sense of revenge in practice. Most fans know it’ll be an adjustment period for teams to get used to the new kickoff rules so Renegade fans should be happy it’s happening now and not in real action.
Notable Players Sidelined on Saturday
There were some notable players that did not workout with the team on the field on Saturday as they could be seen running on the sidelines working their way back onto the field. Noteworthy players included wide receiver Floyd Allen, running back Lance Dunbar, defensive end Frank Alexander, and defensive tackle Winston Craig. It’s a tough break for Dunbar as he has had a history of fighting through injuries and is expected to play a factor in the offense on passing downs. Allen is battling for a spot in the receiver rotation as it continues to get deeper and deeper in the position on the depth chart. Alexander is a veteran presence that the Renegades need and Craig was looked at to be apart of the rotation of defensive tackles, but with the additions of Drew Bailey and Omarius Bryant, it will make competition tougher for everyone at the position.
This story is going to be one that comes from my own perspective. St. Louis BattleHawks Safety #44 Joe Powell is known for a lot on the field, but it’s off the field I wanted to focus on.
Powell and I met years ago when I was on the other side of one of his explosive plays. Powell at the time was with the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks of the Professional Indoor Football League and I was with the Richmond Raiders. In 2015, he was named the PIFL’s defensive rookie of the year. Powell, a defensive back at the time, made 11 interceptions on the season.
Powell is a product of Globe Institute of Technology in New York. He spent time with the New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills in the National Football League.
Just recently he was a member of the now defunct Birmingham Iron. I drove from Texas to watch him play numerous times. He finished out with the Baltimore Brigade in the now defunct Arena Football League. Powell continued to make explosive plays in whatever league he was in.
When the XFL came around and I saw Joe was going to St. Louis I was excited. Powell does a great job at connecting with his “fans” and loves the game. Off the field Powell always takes time to check in on me and others. It takes a lot in today’s age to actual take time out of your busy schedule to check in.
St. Louis BattleHawks Defensive End Jake Payne is a name that should be known in the XFL.
I met Payne a few years back when he was playing with Washington Valor in the now defunct Arena Football League.
Before being a member of the Valor, Payne played collegiately at Division III Shenandoah. While with the Hornets, as a Senior he led the ODAC with seven sacks. He also had 53 tackles, including 26 solo and 14 for loss. He was named first team All-ODAC and Lou Wacker Defensive Player of the Year. He was also named first team All-State by both VaSID and the Roanoke Times.
Payne was also a member of the Birmingham Iron of the now defunct AAF.
Everywhere Payne goes he contributes. Payne plays the run very well and will create mayhem all season with the BattleHawks. Payne and the BattleHawks will travel to Dallas to battle the Renegades on Sunday, February 9 at 4 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN.
Over the past month, the Tampa Bay Vipers have invested in two characters whose troubles have played a big part in their exits from the NFL. First, they acquired CB Jalen Collins from the LA Wildcats in a December trade. Collins was a second round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 2015 out of LSU. While preparing for the draft, it was revealed that he was reported to have had multiple drug test failures in college.
Personal missteps followed Collins to the NFL. After a quiet rookie season on that front, his sophomore season began with him serving a four-game suspension for a failed drug test. His third season, in 2017, began similarly, only this time it was a 10-game ban. The Falcons released him after that suspension. A third suspension followed, this time four games. As a free-agent in 2018, he was given another ten-game suspension, his fourth since joining the league three years earlier.
Collins’ story is not one of run-ins with the law, but it’s a risk for the Vipers nonetheless. The XFL does not have a drug testing policy for performance enhancing drugs (which is what the failed NFL tests were reported as being for), at least one that has been publicly released, so as long as Collins is a good teammate and earns his way onto the roster with his on-field play, he’ll be fine.
Last week, the Vipers dipped their toe into the water of controversy again, this time by signing WR Antonio Callaway. The University of Florida product comes to a Vipers team that should be on the TV show Hoarders for their propensity to keep Florida players in-state. Like Collins, Callaway was a high draft pick in the NFL (fourth round) who would’ve gone higher had it not been for controversy that embroiled him at Florida.
Callaway was accused of sexual assault while in college and suspended. He was eventually found not responsible for the assault, nor for any University of Florida code of conduct violations. Like Collins, Callaway kept clean during his first year in the league. Also like Collins, his second year began with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He was released from the Cleveland Browns for showing up late to meetings. The fact that he was also facing a ten-game suspension – for using a tainted CBD product, per a league source to Cleveland.com – likely played a part in the release from the Browns. He was suspended for the final seven weeks of the 2019 season, and the first three weeks of the 2020 season.
The Vipers needed defensive back help. They took a chance on the tall, speedy Collins. They needed to add deep speed in their wide receiver corps. They took a chance on Callaway and his 4.41 40-yard dash time. Vipers head coach Marc Trestman has made these calculated additions to the team, both appearing to be boom-or-bust acquisitions. Trestman is not a fire-and-brimstone coach, and the success of Tampa Bay’s initial foray into the XFL relies on him not needing to be one. It remains to be seen how he’s able to handle two players who, while talented, bring a lot of baggage to the team and the league. For the perception of the league, they too are taking a chance on Collins and Callaway. Both the Vipers and the XFL hope the only noise Collins and Callaway make is for their on-field play.
On a cool morning in Houston, Texas the Houston Roughnecks welcomed fans and media to see what all the hype was about. The Roughnecks were set to battle the Tampa Bay Vipers. Being a University of Houston alumnus it was nice to see my University be the host of a Professional football team.
The Houston Roughnecks are led by legendary Head Coach June Jones. Jones has spent time at all levels of football, most recently in the Canadian Football League with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Both rosters were full of former NFL players looking at getting another shot. Wide Receiver #10 Sammie Coates is a name many should know. Coates was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round of the 2015 Draft.
When asked about what it meant to be in the XFL, Coates stated “It’s a blessing and I am happy to be here.”
While in the NFL, Coates has 29 receptions for 528 yards and 2 Touchdowns.
Quarterback’s Connor Cook and PJ Walker also looked great. Walker is a name known by many in Houston. He played in college at Temple and battled the University of Houston numerous times throughout his collegiate career.
On defense, Defensive Back Robert Nelson looks to continue his professional career. He is also happy to be back in Houston.
The Special Teams unit also looks to be on point. The Roughnecks have 2019 CFL All-Star Kicker Sergio Castillo who adds depth and experience. Long Snapper Colton Taylor, a Virginia Tech alum continues to impress with his ability to do more than just snap the ball, and punter Austin Rehkow can boot the ball far and pin the opposing team deep.
This team is full of good players and I can’t wait to see them in action on Saturday, February 8 as they host the LA Wildcats.