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Nearly four decades removed
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SAN DIEGO (AP) — Nearly four decades removed from a stint in the short-lived USFL Doug Williams Jersey , Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Polian will preside over the opening weekend of the newest spring league, the Alliance of American Football.“It’s one more challenge at the end of a long career,” said Polian, 76, who co-founded the AAF with Charlie Ebersol, a TV and film producer whose father, Dick, defined NBC Sports’ programming for more than two decades and created “Sunday Night Football.”Polian simply wasn’t ready for retirement after an NFL career in which he helped build Buffalo, Carolina and Indianapolis into Super Bowl teams, with the Colts winning the NFL championship after the 2006 season.This alternative league seems to stand a better chance of surviving than others, such as the USFL and the World League, because of the people and philosophies involved.“I’ve been pretty vocal about channeling the thoughts of so many of my friends in the NFL, in coaching and player personnel, that since the demise of NFL Europe, it’s needed a developmental league, where players can come in and learn and develop skills,” Polian said. “When Charlie approached me about this, we discussed it at great length and finally I said, ‘I’m going to put my effort where my mouth is and see where we can make this work.”Polian will catch half of the opening-weekend games in the eight-team league. He’ll be in San Antonio on Saturday night to watch the Commanders play the San Diego Fleet — broadcast by CBS in prime time — and in Tempe on Sunday night to see the Arizona Hotshots host the Salt Lake Stallions. The other opening-weekend games are the Atlanta Legends at the Orlando Apollos on Saturday night and the Memphis Express at the Birmingham Iron on Sunday night.Polian said the USFL took about 22 months to get up and running, and the expansion Carolina Panthers took about 19 months.“We’ve done this in nine months because of so many great former NFL people who are excited to do it, excited to be in it,” Polian said. “We started with nothing and we’re going to open it up on Saturday with eight teams playing what I think will be pretty good football.“That’s a credit to the people involved. We could not have done it if we had not had quality former NFL people.”The AAF is indeed stuffed with executives, general managers, coaches and players who’ve had various NFL experience.Hall of Fame linebacker and Super Bowl winner Mike Singletary is Memphis’ coach.Mike Martz, who was offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” Super Bowl-winning team in the 1999 season, returns to the sidelines as coach in San Diego, which two seasons ago lost the NFL’s Chargers to Los Angeles.Mike Vick is the offensive coordinator in Atlanta.Dennis Erickson is head coach in Salt Lake and will face off against Arizona’s Rick Neuheisel.The AAF even has the Head Ball Coach himself, Steve Spurrier, who is coaching the Apollos.Hall of Famer Willie Lanier is an executive in the league office Sean Taylor Jersey , where former Pittsburgh Steelers stars Hines Ward (head of football operations) and Troy Polamalu (head of player relations) also work.Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino are officiating consultants. Pereira helped develop the unique rules that include no kickoffs, no extra-point tries, overtime rules that call for each team to get one possession and a ninth official, the SkyJudge, who from his perch in the press box can instantly correct “obvious and egregious” officiating errors, like the one that marred the NFC championship game.San Diego hired so well that it lost quarterback Josh Johnson to the Washington Redskins in December and offensive coordinator Jon Kitna to the Dallas Cowboys as their quarterbacks coach.Ebersol said the AAF players can leave for the NFL between April 29 and Dec. 29. He said the AAF released 71 players to the NFL and 35 came back and are playing. The AAF says that of its more than 600 players signed to date, 98 percent have been in the NFL at some point over the past 18 to 24 months.Polian and Ebersol said every NFL team had scouts in San Antonio when all the teams recently held training camp and then each played an exhibition game.“We’re not competitive, we’re complementary,” Ebersol said. “We look at the NFL as, we’re going to support your existence, let them play in your league, put content on your network. They’re a partner. The goal is to improve and support the ecosystem of football.”Games will be carried on CBS, NFL Network and Turner.Ebersol is backed by some heavyweight investors from Silicon Valley and also MGM, and has told them he has a five-to-seven-year business model.The Alliance has built a proprietary tech platform that will allow for a real-time, rewards-based system of integrated gaming and in-game wagering for fans in states where sports gambling is legalized.In a nice touch, Kurt Warner is the pregame and halftime analyst for Saturday night’s games on CBS. After being cut by Green Bay, Warner was working in an Iowa grocery store before playing in the Arena Football League and ultimately landing with the Rams, leading them to a Super Bowl victory and being voted NFL MVP in 1999.“Think about how many Kurt Warners are hiding among those kids who don’t get to the NFL,” Ebersol said. “Those are the guys we’re finding.”FOX Fantasy AutoForm a Racing Team, Compete for PrizesPlay Now! Zack Martin can’t pinpoint why the Dallas offensive line was better in consecutive road wins after a mostly rugged first half of the season.The Cowboys right guard has a few options: time to adjust to the season-long absence of fellow Pro Bowler Travis Frederick, a steady showing from Xavier Su’a-Filo at left guard for injured rookie Connor Williams or the position coaching change to former Dallas lineman Marc Colombo.Dak Prescott would suggest picking any of them. The quarterback doesn’t really care.“I don’t know what we needed or whatever it was,” Prescott said Tuesday. “The mindset and the way that they’re playing right now, the confidence they have. The way that they’re communicating is just something we’re trying to build on.”The Cowboys (5-5) can pull even with Washington (6-4) atop the NFC East by beating their division rival on Thanksgiving. The surge into contention came from the pair of road wins against the past two NFC participants in the Super Bowl: Philadelphia and Atlanta.Those victories followed an 0-4 start on the road, with communication along the front聽among the primary problems聽without Frederick, the center and traffic cop who is out and increasingly unlikely to play this year聽because of a nerve disorder聽.Dallas has praised聽backup center Joe Looney聽, while Martin has played through a left knee injury sustained in a preseason game and aggravated early in the win over the Eagles. Who knows whether the 2014 All-Pro would be doing that if Frederick were still alongside him.“Anytime you lose an All-Pro player at a position, you can’t replace a guy like that,” Martin said. “But I think guys, through the season Earnest Byner Jersey , we’re getting used to playing next to each other. We’re extremely lucky to have a guy like Looney here to be able to step in and play the way he’s played.”Sacks of Prescott that were an issue in the four straight road losses haven’t disappeared. He’s been dropped 34 times this season, already a career high, with multiple sacks in eight straight games. That’s not even including a season-high six in the opener, a 16-8 loss at Carolina.But Prescott wasn’t sacked in the fourth quarter of the wins over the Eagles and Falcons, when the Cowboys matched tying scores with winning drives that featured a solid mix of star running back Ezekiel Elliott and clutch plays in the passing game. Time to throw for Prescott was crucial in several of those plays.“There are still some things we need to clean up in protection, but we’re getting better every week and I think guys have bought in,” Martin said. “It’s been trending in the right direction.”It was trending in the wrong direction聽the first time the Cowboys played the Redskins聽. Elliott rushed for 33 yards, the second-lowest total of his career, and the Cowboys lost 20-17 when Brett Maher‘s potential tying field goal from 52 yards hit the left upright on the final play.After that loss, the Cowboys聽replaced first-year offensive line coach Paul Alexander聽with Colombo, the assistant line coach who played tackle for the Cowboys from 2005-10.And now, Elliott is coming off consecutive 100-yard games and needs 91 yards to overtake MVP contender Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams for the NFL rushing lead. Gurley is off this week.“The mindset of the way they’re going to block, that’s credit to Colombo, as much as it is getting back to the stuff we’ve done in the past that was more Cowboys football instead of trick-ems or whatever it was,” Prescott said. “The offensive line is doing a great job moving guys.”The Cowboys signed Su’a-Filo, a 2014 second-round pick by Houston, for depth in the second week of the season. A starter in 31 of 32 games over his final two seasons with the Texans, Su’a-Filo sat until Williams’ knee injury was diagnosed after a loss to Tennessee eight weeks later.Williams, who was overpowered several times on sacks of Prescott, is on the verge of returning after arthroscopic surgery. There’s no indication Su’a-Filo is headed back to the bench after his showing against the Eagles and Falcons.“Felt good about what Connor was doing and how he was growing, but Xavier has gone in there and done a good job against two good fronts,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He has held physically in the game, has communicated well with the other guys.”Five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith left the Atlanta game with what he described as a stinger, replaced by former New England tackle Cameron Fleming, one of Dallas’ free agent pickups. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Smith should play against the Redskins.“I just think we’ve done a great job as a team overall of playing with all 11 guys,” Elliott said. “Everyone doing their job, everybody getting in the right spots and the O-line doing a great job up front.”NOTES: Jones said on his radio show Tuesday he expects TE Geoff Swaim to miss three to four weeks after surgery for a broken wrist. … Rookie WR Michael Gallup remained away from the team after getting the news following the Atlanta game that his brother had died by suicide. There is still a chance Gallup will play against the Redskins. … C Adam Redmond was added to the injury report Tuesday with a concussion. He didn’t practice.
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