New York Guardians minicamp is in full swing at the Superdome Sports complex in Waldwick, N.J. The team is barely a week old. Despite the unveiling of the team identity, it’s brilliant uniforms, or the two drafts that formed the Guardians 70 player roster, the majority of the players and coaches are all new to each other. So much so, that some of the players on the practice field on Tuesday were referring to one another by their numbers rather than their names. The team is going through the bonding process on the fly. Up until this point, the December Minicamp has been broken down into phases consisting of meetings, walkthroughs, workouts, and organized team activities. Things will really start to ramp up later this week when the offense and defense finally start to practice against each other in 7 on 7’s and one on one drills.
Vince McMahon Meeting
Three weeks ago. Kevin Gilbride and the Guardians staff met up with the league’s owner. Gilbride walked away very impressed with Vince McMahon’s passion for the league. Calling Vince McMahon’s energy contagious. McMahon rallied the troops and stressed how the XFL is going to be all about presenting quality football. Gilbride noted how McMahon’s words were music to the coach’s ears. McMahon was very supportive and told the coaches that he is available to them 24/7 for whatever they need. After McMahon gave Coach Gilbride his direct number, a day later, Kevin Gilbride decided to text message Vince McMahon to thank him. McMahon responded immediately. He thanked Gilbride for his words and then told him that “We are going to make sports history and we are going to have a ball doing it.”
Training Camp Scrimmages
When the Guardians are done with minicamp, they will take a holiday break before joining in on the league-wide training camp scheduled to start up on January 4th in Houston. All eight teams will have individual and joint practices over the course of three weeks. At the tail end of training camp, teams are scheduled to take part in what will essentially be test games before the league kicks off in February. On the 21st of January, much to the chagrin of Coach Gilbride, the Guardians will be playing a full game against their week one opponent in the Tampa Bay Vipers. The XFL’s broadcast partners will be on hand for these glorified joint practices and games. The purpose of this will serve as almost a dress rehearsal for the regular season for the players, coaches, referees and broadcast networks.
No Changing of The Guard
Superdome Sports will be the Guardians regular-season practice facility as well. New York will also be setting up shop and the entire team headquarters at the Sheraton Hotel nearby. The entire 11th floor will be rented out for meeting rooms, team offices, and film rooms during the season. The players will be housed at the same location, as well during the season. It’s a unique set up that’s being done to increase efficiency.
While Head Coach/GM Kevin Gilbride wasn’t at liberty to get into the specifics of the XFL’s game rules, he was asked about the process that the coaches went through and how heated the debates were. Gilbride admitted there were some competing views by all the XFL coaches involved, but that a consensus was reached among them. Gilbride astutely noted how he’s never been in any room in his career where coaches didn’t differ on opinions or football philosophies. Gilbride noted how open-minded Bob Stoops was during the process. That despite being a defensive coach at heart, Stoops is in favor of the XFL’s rules that enhance offensive play.
Still early in the process, but it’s hard not to be impressed by Matt McGloin. Even at the early stages of minicamp, McGloin is leading the charge like the experienced veteran QB he is. He’s got a good grasp of the playbook already, and is developing a rapport with a talented group of receivers in DeAngelo Yancey, Mekale McKay, Tanner Gentry, and Demarcus Ayers. One of the lesser-known receivers who really stood out today was Alabama A & M’s, Octayvius Miles. Quarterback Marquise Williams stood out as well at practice. He’s known for his mobility and ability to improvise but he has some serious arm talent. The Guardians are in good shape at the Quarterback position. When asked about potentially adding another quarterback to the New York roster, Gilbride said that his preference is to not carry four quarterbacks in camp. He feels that dividing the reps four ways could potentially hinder the team. The Guardians projected third string Quarterback at the moment is Garrett Fugate.
Superdome Sports was sectioned off for the majority of the day with the offense split to one side of the field while the defense went through drills on the other. It’s fair to say that the Guardians defensive coaches, like Defensive Coordinator Jim Herrmann were the most vocal on this day, coaching up their players. One player that doesn’t need much coaching up, but he was getting it anyway from the great Chris Dishman, was Jamar Summers. The former AAF standout was one of the very best rated cover corners in that league by Pro Football Focus. Summers looked great in practice. I had a chance to talk to him briefly afterward. Summers feels blessed to have already been with three different teams all in the same year: the Iron, Dolphins and now Guardians. In a wide-open passing league like the XFL, if Summers plays as well as he did in the Alliance. It will be hard for NFL teams to overlook him again.
The current and updated Guardians roster is now at 66 players. One of the more notable players that is not with the Guardians right now is Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio. He failed his physical and is not currently a part of the team. His brother Arie is still on the team. The Kouandjio brothers being on the same offensive line would have made for quite a story but for the moment, it is not to be.
Photos by Mike Mitchell.
Fan Experience/Community Outreach
The Guardians have already rolled out their founding season ticket member benefits package. Which includes Discounts, Game Day Access, VIP team experiences, a VIP Field Pass, season ticket price locks among other benefits. One of the intriguing fan experience benefits for groups of fans who buy tickets is a pre-game flag football game, sideline access for warm-ups and more. xflguardians.com has all this info lined up.
Lastly, New York is off from practice on Wednesday. The Guardians players will participate in various events where players and staff will visit local hospitals, food banks, families in need, and first-responders to spread holiday cheer. Below is a list of the players involved and where they will be assisting others.
2:45 PM – 3:45 PM: CUMAC Food Bank visit
CUMAC is an organization that works to alleviate hunger and its root causes for those in need in Paterson, Passaic County, and northern New Jersey.
Players/staff will sort donated food, stock pantries, and prepare food packages at CUMAC
Location: CUMAC (www.cumac.org)
Address: 223 Elliston St, Paterson, NJ 07505
Players Attending: Terrence Alexander, Jake Powell, EJ Bibbs, Darius Victor, Keenen Brown, A.J. Hendy, Cavon Walker
3:00 PM: Holy Name Medical Center visit
Players will visit the Holy Name Medical Center to bring holiday cheer with gifts for both adults and children. Players will visit the Medical Center day care, followed by the labor and delivery unit before visiting the pediatric unit.
Location: Holy Name Medical Center
Address: 718 Teaneck Rd, Teaneck, NJ 07666
Players Attending: Arie Kouandjio, Andrew Soroh, DeAngelo Yancey, Wesley Sutton, Aaron Taylor, DeJuan Neal, Bryce Jones, Garrett Fugate
3:00 PM: The Valley Hospital visit
Players will visit The Valley Hospital to bring holiday cheer with toys and Guardians gear for acute care youth patients
Location: The Valley Hospital
Address: 223 N Van Dien Ave, Ridgewood, NJ 07450
Players Attending: Anthony Coyle, Justin Vogel, Darnell Leslie, Nydair Rouse, J-Shun Harris II, Ben Heeney, Ryan Mueller
3:30 PM: Police Department & Fire Department visits
Players will surprise local first responders in Mahwah and East Rutherford with treats and Guardians gear.
Meadowlands Fire Station – 50 NJ-120, East Rutherford, NJ 07073
Players Attending: Nick DeLuca, Tanner Gentry, Marquise Williams, Mekale McKay, Demetrious Cox
Waldwick Fire Department – 15 E. Prospect Street, Waldwick, NJ 07463
Players Attending: Frank Ginda, Matt McCrane, Scott Daly, Toby Johnson
Waldwick Police Department – 15 E. Prospect Street, Waldwick, NJ 07463
Players Attending: Jarron Jones, Matt McGloin, Jake Sutherland, David Rivers
4:00 PM: Shopping Spree
In collaboration with the Salvation Army, players will accompany and sponsor a local family in need to Target for a holiday shopping spree.
Location: Target – Edgewater
Address: 543 River Rd; Edgewater, NJ 07020
Players Attending: Rykeem Yates, Max Lyons, Joey Mbu, D’Juan Hines, Matthew Colburn, Octayvius Miles, Jamar Summers, Demarcus Ayers, TJ Barnes