Over 30 former XFL players are currently on NFL rosters. Many of whom, like PJ Walker, Michael Dunn, Storm Norton, and Donald Parham Jr., all latched on immediately with NFL teams after the XFL 2020 season ended prematurely due to COVID. In recent days, other XFL alumni like Bunmi Rotimi and Reece Horn have finally made their way onto NFL rosters. However, many former XFL players have been waiting on the sidelines, looking to get back on the field. Some found homes and played in the Spring League, others with FCF, and several are currently playing for indoor football league teams.
In the past, one of the most viable options for pro football players looking to extend their careers has been the Canadian Football League. But because of the pandemic in 2020, the option of playing in the CFL didn’t exist. In some ways, the free-agent players from the XFL shared in the same predicament that CFL players have faced; they have all been waiting a long time on the sidelines to get back on the field.
The CFL Option For American Players
Historically speaking, making the CFL as an American rookie has always been a difficult task, but in 2021, it’s more challenging than ever. Notwithstanding the game ratio rule limiting American players to 20 per CFL roster. A rookie American player in Canada is competing for spots against Canadian players but also American players who are already CFL veterans.
On top of that, the transition from playing football in the United States to the CFL style takes time for players to adjust. In addition, Off the field, American players in Canada struggle going through an adjustment period living in foreign territory. And that experience for players is tougher now more than ever because of the uncertainties attached to the pandemic.
And if that isn’t enough of a challenge for American newcomers in the CFL, consider the fact that without preseason games, these players did not have an opportunity to showcase their abilities on the field . As a result, CFL teams could only evaluate them in practices with limited reps in a shortened timeframe to get ready for the regular season. There are a handful of CFL coaches who have coached in the states, but very few have hands-on experience with these players. In conclusion, there was hardly a first chance to make a first impression, let alone a second one.
XFL 2020 To CFL 2021
Before CFL training camps began in July, there were 84 former XFL players on CFL rosters. However, several players passed on the opportunity and didn’t show up; some were placed on suspended lists, like former Houston Roughnecks wide receiver Sammie Coates for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Not participating in the CFL in 2021 isn’t just an American rookie thing, several CFL veterans opted out for personal or business reasons or have retired.
As expected, the total number of XFL players on CFL rosters has withered down considerably, leading to final roster cuts. There were 57 former XFL players in the Canadian league, but the massive purge by all nine teams from nearly 100 total players per franchise has left very few still standing in recent days.
However, on the bright side, the inclusion of a new five-player taxi squad to go along with traditional CFL practice rosters has increased the chances for former XFL players to latch onto teams.
Often, onlookers will dismiss players who end up on practice squads. But in recent times, evidence shows that players with that designation can end up securing roster spots long-term or become key contributors as a season progresses.
Look no further than two examples from last year’s NFL season. Two former XFL players, quarterback Taylor Heinicke for Washington and punter Hunter Niswander for Dallas, arrived late and secured long-term roles. In the case of Heinicke, he became a Cinderella story nearly knocking off the eventual champion Bucs and Tom Brady with a breakout performance in the playoffs.
As always in pro football, things are subject to change. Based on injuries and the potential pitfalls of playing a season during a pandemic, rosters can change throughout this upcoming season. Furthermore, CFL game ratio roster rules play a factor in American players retaining their spots throughout the year.
Here are the former XFL players that made the initial week one regular-season roster of CFL teams. (Counting players on the practice rosters and listing but not counting players currently on suspended lists). Based on several different factors, there might be some alterations in the coming days.
XFL Players On CFL Regular Season Rosters (48)
BC Lions (4)
Active Roster: RB James Butler (Houston Roughnecks), OL Kent Perkins (St. Louis BattleHawks), DL Obum Gwacham (Tampa Bay Vipers)
Practice Roster: CB Nydair Rouse (New York Guardians)
Calgary Stampeders (6)
Active Roster: DL Jarrell Owens (New York Guardians), LB Jameer Thurman (DC Defenders)
Practice Roster: DB Marcellis Branch (Tampa Bay Vipers), OL Jordan Morgan (DC Defenders), WR Dan Williams (Tampa Bay Vipers)- *Taxi Squad* WR Nick Holley (Houston Roughnecks)
Edmonton Elks (6)
Active Roster: LB Nyles Morgan (Seattle Dragons), QB Taylor Cornelius (Tampa Bay Vipers), WR Armanti Edwards (Dallas Renegades), OL De’Ondre Wesley (DC Defenders)
Practice Roster: WR Jalen Tolliver (Tampa Bay Vipers), DL Andrew Ankrah (St. Louis BattleHawks)
Saskatchewan Roughriders (2)
Active Roster: DB AJ Hendy (New York Guardians)
Practice Roster: LB Demarquis Gates (Houston Roughnecks)
Suspended List: WR Sammie Coates (Houston Roughnecks)
Winnipeg Blue Bombers (4)
Active Roster: CB Deatrick Nichols (Houston Roughnecks), DL Casey Sayles (St. Louis BattleHawks)
Practice Roster: DL Ricky Walker (Tampa Bay Vipers), WR Carlton Agudosi (St. Louis BattleHawks)
Hamilton Tiger-Cats (5)
Active Roster: DB Des Lawrence (DC Defenders), DB Channing Stribling (Seattle Dragons)
Practice Roster: WR Steven Dunbar Jr. (Dallas Renegades), OL John Yarbrough (Tampa Bay Vipers), DB Anthoula Kelly (Tampa Bay Vipers)
Montreal Alouettes (5)
Active Roster: RB Cameron Artis-Payne (Dallas Renegades), DB Wesley Sutton (New York Guardians), LB Tre Watson (Dallas Renegades)
Practice Roster: (5-player taxi-squad) WR Rashad Ross (DC Defenders), OL Nick Callender (Houston Roughnecks)-
Suspended List: DB Jermaine Ponder (Seattle Dragons), WR Prince Charles Iworah (Team 9)
Ottawa REDBLACKS (6)
Active Roster: WR Jordan Smallwood (Los Angeles Wildcats), OL Juwann Bushell-Beatty (Houston Roughnecks), OL Na’Ty Rodgers (Tampa Bay Vipers), DE Stansly Maponga (Seattle Dragons)
Practice Roster: QB Taryn Christion (Los Angeles Wildcats), WR Davon Grayson (St.Louis BattleHawks)
Toronto Argonauts (10)
Active Roster: WR Cam Phillips (Houston Roughnecks), WR Daniel Braverman (St. Louis BattleHawks), OL Dejon Allen (St. Louis BattleHawks), OT Terry Poole (Houston Roughnecks), DL Kony Ealy (Houston Roughnecks), DL Shawn Oakman (Los Angeles Wildcats), DE Dewayne Hendrix (St. Louis BattleHawks), LB Dexter McCoil (St. Louis BattleHawks), DB Treston DeCoud (Dallas Renegades)
Practice Roster: LB Reshard Cliett (Dallas Renegades)
- 48 total players who played in the XFL in 2020 are currently on CFL active and practice team rosters.
- 30 players are on the active regular season rosters. 18 on practice rosters.
- Breakdown by XFL team: Houston Roughnecks (9), St. Louis BattleHawks (9) Tampa Bay Vipers (9), Dallas Renegades (6), DC Defenders (5), New York Guardians (4), Los Angeles Wildcats (3), and Seattle Dragons (3)
- The Toronto Argonauts lead the pack with 10 former XFL players. 9 on their current active roster. Players like Dejon Allen, Terry Poole, Shawn Oakman, Dexter McCoil and Kony Ealy are all potential key contributors/starters.
- The Edmonton Elks have two former Tampa Bay Viper players, (QB Taylor Cornelius & WR Jalen Tolliver), not surprising considering that the teams head coach is former Vipers offensive coordinator Jamie Elizondo.
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