XFL is coming, and here’s what you need to know

Everything you need to know about the new XFL before opening weekend


LUKE WESTFALL, Evergreen sports co-editor

So, the NFL season just ended and you are not quite ready to give up your weekend football, what do you do? You are in luck, the XFL is back in business for a third stint this weekend.

You may recall the XFL of the early 2000s run by Vince McMahon, the executive chairman of the WWE, which failed due to a poor blend of football, pro wrestling and sex appeal. Or the XFL of 2020, which was brought to a halt by the pandemic like many other things. 

But after being purchased by former WWE superstar and famous actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the XFL is back again. This year the league seems to have fewer obstacles in its way and is avoiding conflicts with large organizations like in the first go when they attempted to oppose and eventually overthrow the NFL.

This time they are even partnering with the NFL on new rules and equipment innovations. Johnson posted a video on his Twitter expressing his happiness with the partnership and ensuring his commitment to putting the players first. 

Among the new rules are an alternate onside kick option, where the offense can elect to go for a fourth and 15 from their own 25-yard line only in the fourth quarter. 

Also officiating reviews will have a centralized command center led by Dean Blandino, vice president of Officiating and Playing Rules Innovation. The league is adding a level of transparency with officiating that no sport has ever provided, allowing officials to be more consistent and the game to be more engaging, Blandino said.

The league operating as a testing ground for the NFL appears to be a key step in the longevity of this attempt at a rebirth for the XFL, but you need a good product as well. While the league has stuck with an eight-team league, the pool of players participating is littered with former NFL and collegiate stars.

Notable quarterbacks include former Alabama star and Bengals quarterback A.J. McCarron, former Cowboys QB Ben DiNucci, former first-round pick Paxton Lynch and college standouts like Steven Montez, Deondre Francois and Kaleb Eleby. NFL QBs P.J. Walker and Taylor Heinicke both found their footing in the XFL.

Former standouts among other positions include Martavis Bryant, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Vic Beasley, a former first-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons who recorded a 15.5 sack season and was an All-Pro selection in 2016. Bringing in Kalen Ballage, a four-year NFL running back and Marquette King, a six-year NFL punter who led the league in yards per punt during his rookie season.

There are many other recognizable players who were standouts in college or had stints with NFL teams at one point as well. The biggest name to watch for, however, is Josh Gordon. Gordon, 31, led the NFL in receiving yards with 1,646 in 2013 and was a Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection.

He dealt with suspensions on and off that belittled his NFL career, but now finds himself with former Cowboy QB DiNucci on the Seattle Sea Dragons having racked up over 4,000 yards in his NFL career. 

Aside from players, there are some high-level coaches in the league as well. Top coaches include Bob Stoops, former Oklahoma coach who has a 191-48 career record which is 18th in college history, Wade Phillips, a two-time Super Bowl-winning defensive coordinator, and former NFL coaches and players like Hines Ward, Rod Woodson and Jim Haslett.

The league is also incorporating three new cities in 2023. The New York Guardians, Los Angeles Wildcats and Tampa Bay Vipers are being replaced by the Orlando Guardians, San Antonio Brahmas and Las Vegas Vipers. 

The eight-team league will feature four games every weekend leading up to a four-team playoff semi-final with the championship game Saturday, March 13. All games leading to the championship will be aired on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC networks. 

Opening weekend kicks off at 12 p.m. Saturday, with two games Saturday and two on Sunday. The full schedule and rosters can be found on the XFL’s website.