Posted on: July 20, 2011 7:38 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2011 7:47 pm

Is the UFL on the brink of collapse?

The UFL in action (Getty). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

When the lockout first began, the UFL naturally wanted to take advantage. After all, minor-league pro football is better than no pro football at all, right? And if that is the case, you can see why it would be smart of the UFL to try to create some new fans, especially if the NFL lockout lasted into the preseason or (gasp!) the 2011 season.

Except that’s not going to happen. 1. The NFL lockout, from all indications, is close to being over. 2. The UFL doesn’t have the financing to … um … well … you know … start the league schedule on time.

Those are two big problems, especially the latter, because it calls into question whether the UFL is a viable league heading into the future. On Tuesday, the commissioner of the UFL, Michael Huyghue, sent out a letter that reads in part:
Dear Fans,

Today we announced that the 2011 United Football League season will now kickoff in mid-September as opposed to August 13 as originally announced. At the conclusion of last season we announced that we would play in August because we believed then, and now, that playing in August provides a compelling opportunity for us to offer meaningful games during the NFL preseason. At the time we could not have predicted that the uncertainty of the NFL and NBA lockouts would create a destabilizing, negative impact throughout the professional sports industry.

The uncertainty that gripped pro sports delayed many essential business agreements until late in the offseason. In order to provide the product that UFL fans have grown to expect after two seasons we decided it was in the best interest of our fans, our players, our staff and our brand to push back kickoff. Our ownership group, our staff and the entire UFL family remains committed to providing a great 2011 season.

Players and coaches had arrived in our cities to prepare for the season. Many of them will now depart for a few weeks at league expense. We will announce a new training camp and season schedule shortly which will provide a timeline for their return. Some players and coaches will remain in our cities to help market their team.
Basically, the league doesn’t have enough money to play games right now.

I suppose it’s a positive sign that the players (like RB Bobby Rome and Joe Clermond, who’s trying to tackle him in the picture above) and coaches don’t have to find their own way home and that they’ll be reimbursed for their travel fares. Plus, to be fair, the league hasn’t started playing games until mid-September since it was established two years ago. But Las Vegas Locomotives coach Jim Fassel told Sporting News radio (via Pro Football Talk) that the UFL didn’t have a handle on how potential free agents would respond to the NFL lockout.

Jim Fassel said the UFL miscalculated what a lockout could mean (Getty).“We all thought that the NFL, with their issues, this would be an advantage for us,” Fassel said. “And it’s not. It’s confused a lot of issues, with players and everything else. We talk to players and it’s, ‘Well, I think I’ll sign with the NFL, and if I don’t, I’ll sign with your league.’”

Yet, doesn’t this snafu call into question the existence of the league this year (and forever)? Well, the National Football Post has obtained a letter from Randy Ball, the Locomotives director of player personnel, to player-agents that states the league WILL play this season.

But back to the commissioner’s letter. Blaming the NFL for the UFL’s shortcomings? I’m just not sure I buy that. What I do buy is that it’s nearly impossible for any other pro football league to compete with the NFL, no matter how it’s marketed (if it’s EXTREME! or an “NFL minor league” or “if Donald Trump says it can work”). Aside from the American Football League in the 1960s, it just doesn’t happen.

The UFL might survive this season and live to play another year. But long-term viability? Right now, it’s just hard to see how it’ll last.

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Posted on: July 12, 2011 11:19 am
Edited on: July 12, 2011 11:46 am

Clarett warns Pryor to avoid mistakes he made

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Over a four-year period, Maurice Clarett went from college freshman phenom to NFL Draft bust to prison inmate. He's been a free man for more than a year and is currently a member of the UFL's Omaha Nighthawks. It's a far cry from the Denver Broncos, that team that drafted him in 2005, but it's also a huge upgrade from being incarcerated. It's all about perspective.

Clarett appeared recently on Omaha's 1620 The Zone to talk about, well, everything that's happened to him since college. He's even spoken to Terrelle Pryor, who abruptly left Ohio State last month to enter the NFL Supplemental Draft.

"When I talk to Terrelle, it’s more or less, ‘I don’t want you to go down the same road I did,’" Clarett said, according to Sports Radio Interviews. "I don’t get into what took place at Ohio State, but I understand the mistakes I made after I left Ohio State. I don’t want to see him do some of the things I did.”

Clarett had some thoughts on colleges increasing players' stipends, in part to avoid the rule-breaking that got him in trouble, but also because players shouldn't have to struggle from month to month while universities make millions of dollars.

“In the UFL, the salary cap, they give us $50,000," he said. "… Even if you gave those college kids, there’s 100 of them and you can’t give them all that, but even if you gave them kids $30,000, $20,000, there wouldn’t be any situations where they’d be having illegal benefits or having to take things. They try to say, well, every program is not the same. Well, that’s life. Everybody doesn’t get paid the same.”

Sometimes prison hardens people and they come out worse than when they went in. Clarett seems to have grown from the experience. “There’s so many things [I learned from prison]. More character things, more things on how to respect myself. It was all character based. … The one thing I did learn is I need to give more time to my family and less time to friends and things that are irrelevant.”

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Category: NFL
Posted on: July 7, 2011 4:30 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2011 5:44 pm

Fassel reaches out to Barber about playing in UFL

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Earlier this week, Tiki Barber announced that he'd like to play for the Buccaneers or the Steelers.

Not surprising: Barber wants to play for winning franchises. Even less surprising: Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh appear to have no interest in a 36-year-old running back with a ton of baggage who last played an NFL down in 2006.

But now, after a rough patch that included losing his $2 million-a-year gig with NBC and leaving his wife and kids for a 20-something former NBC intern (all while no one -- coaches, players, his brother -- came to Barber's defense), things seem to be looking up. Sort of.

Jim Fassel, the former Giants coach who's now the general manager and coach of the UFL's Las Vegas Locos, has reached out to Barber about joining his team.

"Tiki always kept himself in great shape," Fassel told USA Today recently. "There will definitely be an adjustment period for him to get in the flow of things and getting his body used to being hit again."

Tiki Time

Realistically, Barber's best shot to play professional football again will come in the UFL. And if we're to believe his agent when he says that money isn't the main issue, then the UFL makes even more sense.

As for what kind of compensation we're talking about, Wikipedia states that "In 2010, players earned $6,250 per game, for a total of $50,000 in the regular season; participants in the 2010 UFL Championship Game were paid a total of $10,000 each, with an additional $10,000 going to each player on the winning team. Starting quarterbacks earned a $200,000 salary."

That's pocket change for NFL players, but $50,000 was the median household income in the U.S. for 2009. And even if Barber does need the money, there aren't many jobs out there that will pay him more than that; the odds that he gets another television gig anytime soon are long, as are the chances he makes an NFL roster.

"If [NFL teams] don't have as much time [to practice because of the lockout], starting players are going to get most of the reps," Fassel said. "There is not going to be a lot of time for guys who need to prove themselves."

If Barber needs added incentive to play for an old coach in a new league, Fassel led the Locos to back-to-back championships in the first two years of the five-team league.

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Posted on: June 3, 2011 7:10 pm
Edited on: June 3, 2011 7:36 pm

Hot Routes 6.3.11: Cooley is a Jerky Boy?

Posted by Will Brinson

Got a link for the Hot Routes? Hit us up on Twitter (@CBSSportsNFL).
  • I hate to keep talking about zany members of the Washington organization, but this story about Chris Cooley's prank-call love is just too good to pass up. Apparently, Cooley spent the offseason playing jokes and jokes and jokes on people via the phone. Via Andrew Sharp of SB Nation, Cooley went on Rich Eisen's podcast and told stories about pranks he likes to pull. He called Carson Palmer, he claims, and pretended to be John Elway and told him, "Listen, I hate Tim Tebow. I want you. I want you out here in Denver." And then he called Elway and pretended to be Carson and then he called John Fox ... and, well, it really doesn't sound like it can be true. But either way, it's enjoyable.

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Posted on: March 26, 2011 10:20 am

Drayton Florence's offer to Schotty

Posted by Andy BenoitD. Florence

Hopefully the day will soon come when the lockout is over soon and we won’t have to keep doing these “what this player and that player say they’re going to do during the lockout” posts.

Alas, that day is not today. So we pass along Drayton Florence’s recent tweet. The Bills cornerback offered to coach the defensive backs for the Virginia Destroyers during the lockout. The Destroyers recently hired Florence’s old Chargers coach, Marty Schottenheimer, to run their show.

It’s hard to say just how serious Florence’s offer really is. Seems like if he really wanted to offer up his services, he’d call Schottenheimer rather than tweet to him for all to see and force the coach to contact him, no?

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Posted on: March 21, 2011 10:54 am

Marty Schottenheimer getting back in the game

Posted by Andy Benoit

It’s long been assumed that Marty Schottenheimer would like to get back into coaching. The power-run oriented coach has been out of the game since his adversary, Chargers GM A.J. Smith, fired him after a 14-2 ’06 season was wiped away by a one-and-done playoff loss.

If ESPN’s Chris Mortensen is correct, Schottenheimer is returning to professional football…sort of. Mortensen reports that Schottenheimer is in line to become the next head coach and general manager of the UFL’s Virginia Destroyers.

The 2011 season will be the Destroyers’ first.

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Posted on: March 1, 2011 4:13 pm

Other football leagues an option for NFL players?

Posted by Mike Freeman

If there is a prolonged work stoppage in the NFL several agents said their NFL clients have expressed a desire to practice with either United Football League, Canadian Football League or Arena League teams. Some players, incredibly, are even thinking about playing in games in these leagues should a lengthy lockout or stoppage happen.

Such a move would seem to be incredibly stupid for a young NFL player. The risk of injury in these leagues would be high for comparatively little money.

But the concern some players apparently have is they'd get so far out of football shape that continuing the contact portion of the sport is worth the risk because they'd have an advantage over other NFL players once practices and games started.

Now, let's be clear. We're not going to see Tom Brady playing for the Toronto Argonauts.

But it's very possible some lower tier NFL players go this route.

This is how it would work.

The union decertifies. Owners then say: we're not in business. The battle moves to the courts for months. Basically, under that scenario, players are free agents. They can play wherever they want.

So several low-level players would then go to the CFL, UFL or AFL for playing experience as the lockout droned on. Then once the season starts they'd be more ready than those who weren't playing.

"As long as the player is not under contract with another league, he is allowed to practice with an AFL team," Evan Vladem, spokesman for the AFL, told CBSSports.com. "To practice, the player must be under AFL contract or sign a one-day waiver with the league. With that being said, a free agent could play on an (AFL) team; however, we are very confident that the NFL will play this season. We work well in conjunction with the NFL abd they have supported us and our players greatly."

This entry was cross-posted from Mike Freeman's FreeStyle Blog. For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 26, 2010 5:43 pm

Can the UFL continue to demand 150K?

Lorenzo Booker apparently has interest from Minnesota, but the UFL won't waive its $150,000 transfer fee (Getty). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

By now, you might heard about the UFL’s seemingly-ridiculous transfer fee for an NFL team to sign a player from a UFL squad. In order to add a certain player, the NFL team has to pay a transfer fee of $150,000.

According to Pro Football Talk , at least four UFL players have worked out for NFL teams since the UFL’s regular season ended. But none of them signed with the NFL.

This might tell us that no NFL team is interested in paying $150,000 for the right to take a player off the roster of a UFL squad (it could also mean that those four players were simply not good enough).

The latest player caught in the crosshairs of this non-arrangement is Lorenzo Booker, who previously had played with the Eagles and Dolphins. Apparently the Vikings wanted to sign the running back, who actually skipped the UFL’s regular-season finale as a protest to the transfer fee, but the UFL isn’t waiving the fee.

I can understand the UFL’s position here. If the NFL is going to pluck a standout from a UFL roster, that NFL team should have to pay the UFL squad some kind of restitution. That’s only fair.

But the UFL, which seemingly has represented itself as a minor league for the NFL, also isn’t making life easy for those who are continuing their careers in that league. According to PFT, there were 43 UFLers who joined the NFL last year. If there isn’t some kind of precedent where an NFL team decides spending $150,000 to transfer a minor-leaguer to the big show, do these players want to take a chance on the UFL? After all, they might never get off that minor-league roster?

If not, how much does this water down the UFL’s product? And how much does the af2 benefit?

(That last question, by the way, was a joke).

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Category: NFL
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