The NFL Draft is 19 days away, and I don't know about all of you, but I've been jonesing for a football fix for about two months now. So yours truly is quite happy that, tonight, the NFL Network will give those of us that are interested a significant football fix.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen. . .after a one-year hiatus due to financial problems and other issues, the Arena Football League makes its triumphant return this evening. The NFL Network has reached an agreement with the AFL to present a "Game of the Week" for the 15-team league, and tonight's matchup features the Chicago Rush and the Iowa Barnstormers.
For the uninitiated, after the jump you'll find some of the key differences between Arena Football and their counterparts in the NFL.
|Arena Football League||National Football League|
|Field||85 feet wide, 50 yards long||160 feet wide, 100 yards long|
|Goal Posts||Nine feet wide with a 15-foot high crossbar||18 1/2 feet wide with a 10-foot high crossbar
|Rosters||20 players; 8 men on the field at once||53-man roster; 11 men on the field at once
|Rebound Nets||Kickoffs and passing plays that bounce off of the nets are totally in play||What the heck is this "rebound net" you speak of?|
|Passing||Receivers only need to have one foot in bounds||Receivers need to have two feet in bounds|
|Punting||No punting in the Arena League; go for it on every fourth down||Yeah, there's punting. Duh|
There are a few other differences as well. In Arena Football, many of the players play on both offense and defense. The exceptions to this rule are the quarterback, a designated "offensive specialist," and two designated "defensive specialists." With the exception of the specialist players, each team is only allowed one substitution per quarter. A team is also allowed to have a player going forward in motion at the snap of the ball, as opposed to the NFL, where a player can only be moving laterally or backwards.
The indoor game really is different, as you can no doubt tell from the table above. Many of the games are very high-scoring, and the statistics that some players. . .particularly quarterbacks. . .have put up in the past are ridiculous. For example, the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season is 50 by Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. The Arena League record for most touchdown passes in a season is held by Aaron Garcia of the New York Dragons, who in 2001 threw a mind-blowing 104. . .yes, one hundred and four. . .touchdown passes. Keeping in mind that the Arena League season was 14 games long, that works out to about 7.5 touchdown passes per game. (As any good Viking fan knows, Joe Kapp was the last NFL quarterback to have seven touchdown passes in a game. That's only been accomplished five times in NFL history.) The league has also given us a few players other than Kurt Warner. . .current Arizona Cardinals kicker Jay Feely and current Tennessee Titans kicker Rob Bironas both spent time in the Arena League, as did former Miami Dolphins receiver Oronde Gadsden and journeyman quarterback Paul Justin.
As I mentioned, the league has 15 teams, which is a bit odd, to say the least. If you take a quick look at the Arena Football League website, you can probably find a team close to your area. I, personally, am partial to the Bossier-Shreveport Battlewings. Why? Well, let's see. . .
1) They're pretty much the closest team to here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and there's an Air Force Weather hub at Barksdale AFB near Shreveport
2) "Battlewings". . .how can you not love that?
3) Their cheerleaders are the "Fly Girls," which is a nice In Living Color shout-out, and their mascot is "Winger," obviously named after the crappy 80s hair band.
So, I hope that if you need a football fix to help your appetite at this point in the off-season that you'll give Arena Football a serious chance. Yeah, it's not smashmouth football, and the running game in the AFL is pretty much non-existent, but it IS a lot of fun to watch. If you want to discuss tonight's game, you can feel free to do it here, too.