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.
Mike Gambill has joined XFLBoard.com as a reporter for the Houston Roughnecks.