Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Past spring leagues have attracted prime NFL-caliber talent

As a National Football League rookie in 1987, Kansas City Chiefs running back Paul Palmer led the league in number of kickoff returns, kickoff return yards and kickoff return touchdowns.

In 1988, Palmer was 10th in the NFL in all-purpose yards and was tied for seventh in the league in catches by a running back.

By March of 1991, however, Palmer was the starting running back for the World League of American Football’s Barcelona Dragons. Was Palmer not good enough to play in the NFL a few years after all those accomplishments? Not at all.

At age 26, Palmer still had NFL skills. His mouth had gotten him in trouble in Kansas City, Barry Sanders arrived and made him unneeded in Detroit, he was the leading rusher for a 1-15 Dallas team in 1989 and he was caught in a numbers game in Cincinnati in 1990. At the time Palmer was released in training camp in 1990, then-Bengals Head Coach Sam Wyche said he thought all the players he cut, including Palmer, could play in the NFL.

The three-decades-long history of spring professional football is replete with examples of players who have played at the highest level of professional football, and have ended up in the United States Football League (1983-85), WLAF (1991-92, 1995-97)/NFL Europe (1998-2007) and/or the XFL (2001) due to a better contract, being the sixth receiver on a team that kept five, injuries or whatever.

When the A11 Professional Football League says it will have NFL-caliber talent which fits the A11 game, it means it. Will the A11FL have a former league Most Valuable Player like quarterback Brian Sipe, who was the NFL’s MVP in 1980, then jumped to the USFL’s New Jersey Generals in 1984?

Will the A11FL have a former fourth-overall draft pick/Pro Bowler with nearly 40 career sacks like defensive end Bruce Clark, who continued his career with the WLAF’s Barcelona Dragons in 1991-92?

Will the A11FL have a former heir-apparent first-round quarterback who just needs an extended chance on the field to perform like Tommy Maddox, who won a league title and a Player of the Year award in the XFL in 2001?

Only time will tell. But the past tells us that the A11FL will have more than enough NFL-quality players to choose from in about 11 months.

Dusty Sloan is the A11 Professional Football League’s Senior Editor/Vice President of Editorial Content.

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