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AAF's Inaugural Season Enters Roller-Coaster Territory

by Fran Stuchbury
March 29, 2019 - Alliance of American Football (AAF)

This past week Alliance of American Football Chairman Tom Dundon told USA Today the league is in danger of folding unless the NFL and NFL Players Association provides players for AAF rosters. NBC Sports stated that games will be played this weekend, but beyond that nothing is guaranteed.

A resolution with the NFLPA does not appear imminent. The current NFL collective bargaining agreement doesn't expire until 2021. It is possible an agreement with the AAF could be reached sooner than that, but that is when discussions could be more serious. There are many considerations, including what happens if any NFL players sent to the Alliance get seriously injured.

Dundon has reportedly committed to invest $250 million, but can withdraw his support at any time. According to Darren Revell of the Action Network, Dundon has already spent a whopping $70 million in only six weeks since taking over as the majority owner of the league.

The first year of any sports league will present some huge financial challenges, but a lot of positive things have happened.

The play on the field has been good. The quicker pace has games ending in around two and a half hours. Attendance figures in San Antonio have been great. In Orlando and San Diego, fan interest has also been solid.

Television ratings have been higher than expected which encouraged both TNT and CBS to add more games to their schedules.

Some thoughts around the league:

  • The league has moved the Orlando Apollos at Memphis Express game on Saturday from Bleacher Report Live to TNT. Ratings have been good enough for TNT to add more games.

  • The San Antonio Commanders are the hottest team in league at 5-2 in the Western Conference and on a four-game winning streak. They look to extend their winning streak to five games Sunday night at home against the Arizona Hotshots.

  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have hired Birmingham Iron defensive line assistant coach Lori (Lo) Locust as an assistant defensive line coach.

  • John Wolford completed 15 of 19 passes for 212 yards with two touchdowns and added one rushing touchdown of 35 yards in the Arizona Hotshots' 32-15 victory over the San Diego Fleet, earning him OurSports Central AAF Offensive Player of the Week honors. After losing three games in a row, the Hotshots are on a nice two-game winning streak.

  • Arizona Hotshots running back Jhurell Pressley leads the league in rushing with 407 yards.

  • San Diego Fleet wide receiver Nelson Spruce set an Alliance record with 12 receptions in their 32-15 loss to Arizona.

  • The Fleet lost two key players to season-ending injuries. WR Dontez Ford who led the club in receiving with 435 yards suffered an ankle injury and RB Ja'Quan Gardner who led the Fleet in rushing with 311 yards went down with a shoulder injury.

  • The Orlando Apollos are the first team in the Alliance to clinch a playoff spot, doing so with a 36-6 rout of the Atlanta Legends. D'Ernest Johnson and De'Veon Smith are a great one-two punch at running back with a combined 666 yards, 348 for Johnson and 318 for Smith.

  • The Atlanta Legends have lost the last two games by a combined score of 73-12.

  • The Salt Lake Stallions have released LB Anthony Williams. In a corresponding move, LB Ty Schawb has been signed to the active roster.

  • Memphis Express linebacker DeMarquis Gates blocked a Birmingham Iron punt and defensive back Terrell Bonds ran it back 50 yards for the touchdown. It was the first blocked punt returned for a touchdown in Alliance history. Gates also leads the league tackles with 46.

  • Johnny Manziel made his debut with the Memphis Express, completing three of five passes for 48 yards and adding two carries for 20 yards in 31-25 OT victory over the Birmingham Iron. He will get some playing time this week, but Brandon Silvers will remain the starting quarterback for the Express after having a solid game, throwing for 266 yards and two touchdown passes.

  • The AAF drew 340,000 viewers on TNT on Saturday for Orlando versus Atlanta for a .22 rating. The AAF drew 237,000 viewers on Saturday night for Salt Lake versus San Antonio for a .07. Birmingham versus Memphis drew 255,000 viewers on NFL Network on Sunday night for a .08.

  • Home teams went 3-1 last week.

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Alliance of American Football Stories from March 29, 2019

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer(s), and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

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