The XFL is a little more than two weeks away from kicking off their 2023 regular season Saturday, February 18th, on ABC, ESPN, and FX. The league and all eight of their teams are reaching the final stages of training camp in Texas.
The revived league and all eight of its teams have been adjusting on the fly as it heads toward launch. Let’s get into all the league news and adjustments that are being made moving forward.
XFL Exhibition Games/ESPN Dress Rehearsal Cancelled Due To Texas Weather
The XFL and its TV Partner Disney had scheduled a dress rehearsal and exhibition games for all eight league teams. The league and ESPN planned to conduct and simulate broadcasts of half-games (two-quarters of play in four different exhibitions) this past Tuesday and Wednesday between all XFL teams. It was supposed to be a dry run before the regular season. But an icy, wet winter storm in Texas had different plans.
The operative word right now is canceled. Teams may still have scrimmages and joint practices next week. Something XFL teams have already done. But full-on broadcast/game dress rehearsals are no longer in the cards.
The XFL’s top leadership, including Gerry Cardinale, Dany Garcia, and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, were all on hand at the league’s hub in Texas earlier this week. Along with ESPN and its team of broadcasters for XFL games. The entire league got together in a town hall setting, which served almost as a pep rally for the upcoming season.
XFL Regular Season Cut-Down Date
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been a lot of roster activity in the XFL in the last few weeks. All eight teams cut down their rosters to 70, and player trades were conducted, coincidentally or not, after joint practices, which usually spearheads changes.
The D.C. Defenders, for example, made three straight separate trades in consecutive days. All while adding multiple NFL veteran free-agent players to the mix. Team Directors of Player Personnel like Von Hutchins may not be done either as XFL teams enter the final phase of roster evaluation as cut-down day arrives on February 9th.
Roughly 160 players will be let go at final cuts in a week. It doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the road for them. After all, other XFL teams could claim players who are released. And also, injuries in pro football are a given. So many players could cycle their way back into the leagues as the season unfolds.
Nevertheless, it’s a challenging period for XFL coaches and the league’s prospective players. Teams are scheduled to pare down their rosters to fifty—45 active players on game day, plus five on the weekly inactive list.
But there might be a tweak to roster size on the way.
XFL Expanding Regular Season Rosters
The current football leadership of the XFL has undoubtedly shown its willingness to adjust and readjust accordingly. For example, XFL training camp rosters were initially going to max out at 66 per team. But to accommodate their partnership with the NFL Alumni Academy. The XFL’s football ops team adjusted and permitted teams to exceed their original player total to add more AA graduates into the mix.
At one point, some XFL teams were hovering around eighty players in the early days of camp.
XFL teams were initially slated to carry 50 players per roster going into the regular season. But there have been talks in recent days of expanding that to include more players per team. The league has discussed expanding rosters from 52 to 55 players, with up to as many as ten players on a team’s inactive reserve roster each week. (45+10).
According to sources within the XFL, at the bare minimum, teams will now carry 51 players during the regular season. The added spot will be reserved for the quarterback position. Call it the NFC Championship game effect, which saw the San Francisco 49ers hamstrung when Brock Purdy and XFL 2020 standout Josh Johnson fell to injury against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The plan is for all XFL teams to mandatorily carry and potentially dress three quarterbacks on their active roster. Call it the plus-one tweak: 46 active players plus five players on the weekly inactive list.
It’s a minor but wise adjustment by XFL leadership. Something the NFL may be doing sooner rather than later.
Paxton Lynch & Brett Hundley Join The XFL
Even at this late stage of training camp. XFL teams continue adding potential opening-day starters to their rosters. Quite a few of the added-on late arrivals just finished the 2022 season on NFL practice squads. Such as new Vegas Vipers signing offensive lineman Kahlil McKenzie, a season-long member of the Ravens, when Baltimore’s season ended in January.
There have been other players who finished the NFL season on practice squads who have joined the XFL, like linebacker Ferrod Gardner, who is staying in the District, moving from the Commanders to the Defenders. But it’s always the quarterbacks who grab all the headlines.
Former Denver Broncos first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch was close to being an XFL quarterback in 2020. The 2.0 league targeted him and Geno Smith, who were both battling for a roster spot on the Seattle Seahawks back in the summer of 2019. The XFL was in talks with both players in case either came free at the end of training camp in Seattle.
As it turns out, Geno Smith won that roster battle with Lynch. Paxton was on the verge of signing with the XFL before an injury to Ben Roethlisberger opened up a roster spot for Lynch in Pittsburgh. Interestingly, the injury to Big Ben also prompted the Steelers to sign another QB who was moments away from signing in the XFL. Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges. Fittingly enough, the Steelers would also try to wrest away Landry Jones and P.J. Walker, who were both under XFL contracts, which prohibited them from signing with an NFL team.
Three years later, Paxton Lynch is finally in the XFL, giving it one last go with Terrell Buckley’s Orlando Guardians.
Paxton Lynch is nearing the end of his pro football journey. Since washing out of the NFL. Lynch has tried his hand in the CFL, and in 2022 with the Michigan Panthers in the United States Football League. During the tail end of last year’s USFL season, sources indicated that Lynch was angling for an opportunity in XFL 2023.
Despite some late-season success and progression showed by Lynch with Jeff Fisher’s Michigan squad. Paxton was dead set on trying his hand in the XFL. So much so that he joined the NFL Alumni Academy in the fall of 2022, hoping to find a way in.
Lynch has gotten into that XFL door with the Guardians. Will he make what is likely his final shot count?
Brett Hundley is a significant pickup for the Vegas Vipers and the XFL. The well-traveled veteran NFL quarterback never panned out as a starter in the NFL. But his wealth of experience and name recognition is a plus for the league.
The XFL is affording Brett Hundley an opportunity to be a starter again, even though NFL teams have continuously employed him. Two different teams in 2022. It’s something that has eluded the UCLA star for several seasons.
The XFL has been in talks and negotiations with Brett Hundley’s camp since the summer of 2022. So it’s not surprising to see him land with the league, and it’s a testament to Hundley and his desire to play for him to take the spring pro football league plunge at this stage of his career.
Bryan Scott’s Departure From Vegas And Likely The XFL
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. So what exactly happened with now former Vipers quarterback Bryan Scott with Vegas?
Depending on who supplies the information. If you are inclined to seek out the truth. You might get several explanations for why Bryan Scott’s time with the Vegas Vipers has ended.
Bryan Scott was either on the verge of being cut because he was struggling in camp or, once he got wind of Brett Hundley’s arrival, decided to part ways with Vegas because he made clear to the team that he had no desire to be a backup.
During this process of speaking to several parties close to the situation. Various versions of the events were relayed about Bryan Scott during his stay in Vegas. Most of them, unfortunately, were negative takes on Scott’s position that he orchestrated his way out of the Vipers. Many felt that Bryan Scott got out in front of the news of his impending release to try and weave a more favorable narrative about himself.
The bottom line is this; Vegas doesn’t want Bryan Scott anymore. And Scott doesn’t want to be in the XFL unless he is a starter. It’s as simple as that. The shotgun wedding of Scott and the Vipers in Vegas wasn’t meant to be.
Bryan Scott, who had interest from USFL teams, opted instead to join the XFL for two primary reasons. The opportunity to start and the XFL’s timeline of February through early May. Which is more conducive for quarterbacks looking to latch onto NFL rosters earlier in the team-making process.
Scott’s opportunities to latch on with NFL teams the last few years had dried up. A few years back, after being MVP of the Spring League, Scott got back on the NFL radar, working out for teams like the Indianapolis Colts. But it’s been radio silence ever since for the former small-college star. An injury in the USFL derailed Bryan’s chances to get back on the map. And now, his bitter end in the XFL muddies his picture and prospects even further.
Not being able to make it as a starter in the XFL has to be a great disappointment for Scott. But such is the life of a pro football player. There are no guarantees.
Bryan Scott is looking for a fresh start again. It just won’t be with the Vegas Vipers, and if there’s any smoke to the fire surrounding him. It may not come in the XFL, either.
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February 3, 2023 at 11:05 pm
Good article Mike. Lots of players becoming available soon. With all the available players not surprised the league increasing roster size, the inactive roster cost is much less to cover too.
Hopefully BScott lands in the USFL and we can see how he does. I think Lynch will do fine, I’m not sold on Hundley based on NFL performance. My boy Perez may get his shot.
Games start in 2 weeks…