DC Defenders

DC Defenders

In a short league-wide conference call on Friday, the XFL suspended their operations due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a return to football in 2021 or beyond unlikely. Almost all employee contracts were terminated, as the second go-round of the league lasted even shorter than the first.

The unfortunate end to the relaunched spring football league was almost directly a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The XFL displayed plenty of momentum during this spring and was catching on with fans. The league had its fair share of star power with both former NFL players and ex-college stars and it was running far more smoothly than the first version of the league in 2001.

While the XFL won't be returning anytime soon -- if ever -- that doesn't mean parts of the league can't carry on.

Here are three rules the NFL should adopt from the XFL.

1. XFL's kickoff style

Kickoffs in the NFL now often result in touchbacks. The league has made it clear it wants as little contact as possible on one of the sport's most dangerous plays. Some of the most violent collisions in the NFL happen on kickoffs with players sprinting as much as 40, 50 or 60 yards before even coming in contact with anyone on the returning team. 

The XFL seemed to find the best solution in terms of still being able to have a kickoff return, but limiting high-speed collisions. The kicker would line up on his own 30-yard line, but every one of the kicking team's coverage players would be lined up on the opposing team's 35-yard line. The receiving team's blockers would line up just five yards away at their own 30-yard line. Players on both teams were only allowed to move once the returner caught the kickoff. 

 

This format allows returns to happen on almost every play but also limits the high-speed collisions due to the close proximity between the blockers on each team. Sure, the number of return touchdowns was not very high under this new style, but there aren't that many returns for touchdowns in the NFL in the first place.

This seems like the easiest and most necessary rule the NFL needs to adopt from the XFL.

2. One foot in bounds on catches

The NFL has struggled for years determining what is (and what isn't) a catch. The best way to make that decision easier? Simplify the rules.

The XFL only required one foot of a receiver to be in bounds in order for a pass to be caught; in the NFL, pass-catchers need to have both feet in bounds. The NFL is the only level of football that requires both feet to be in bounds. Both the college and high school games only implement one foot needed for a completed catch.

Sure, there's the argument that 'It's the NFL, the highest level of the sport. Two feet are needed.' But just imagine how many more amazing catches we would see if the league slightened up this rule.

3. Punt touchback rules

The art of pinning a team inside its own 10-yard line without punting the ball in the end zone is already a tough act, but the stakes would be even higher if the NFL adopted the XFL's punt rules. 

In the XFL, instead of the ball going to the 20-yard line on a touchback, the opposing team takes over at their own 35-yard line. That 15-yard difference is a biiiiiiiiig deal, and especially would be in the NFL.

The whole idea behind the rule is to encourage coaches to go for it on fourth down, but also to add a little extra pressure on the punter attempting to pin an opponent deep.

Also, this rule would greatly benefit the Redskins. Pro Bowl punter Tress Way has mastered the art of pinning an opponent deep without them getting a touchback.

BONUS: Could the beer snake work at any other stadium?

The beer snake (or cup snake, whatever you prefer to call it) was one of the XFL's most exciting bits. At every DC Defenders home game, the crowd at Audi Field would create a snake of empty beer cups. It was quite impressive. The snake went up several rows into the stands and had hundreds, sometimes thousands, of empty cups attached (see the video player above for a full explanation).

 

So, could the bit work at other stadiums? The answer is probably, but it likely wouldn't have the same effect.

The beer snake epitomized the XFL's slogan "For The Love of Football." It was a way for fans to engage with each other, but also, it was just simply fun. Going to an XFL game at Audi Field was just as much, if not more, about the experience than it was watching the actual football game. Think of it as a day-drink, but with football in the background.

While some outdoor venues may try to replicate the feat once sports start up again, it likely would have the same success, or fun, that the beer snake at Audi Field once had.

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