Extra Points: Newton, Patriots, Williams, Bears, XFL

It was widely known that Patriots quarterback Cam Newton wasn’t his self physically during his last couple years with the Panthers. But he recently revealed just how bad his health situation was. In a video he just posted this past week (that was recorded in September of 2020), Newton said he hadn’t felt good in years, via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com. “Last time I’ve been healthy?” Newton said. “Honest, 2016.”

I threw an interception,” Newton explained, describing the shoulder injury he first suffered in December of 2016. “I tried to go make the tackle, and I tried to push him out, and I extended my arm, and I messed up my AC joint. And ever since then, there’s just been a part of me that’s just been a wounded dog. Like a wounded lion almost. Just, ‘I’m not right.’ I feel good at times, but when I’m running I still feel it. So instead of running them over, I’m going to turn this shoulder and just go down.” Newton went on to say that he had felt like the shoulder finally healed ahead of his 2020 season with the Patriots. Obviously that season didn’t go how anybody around the team hoped for, and it’s curious timing as to why Newton posted this video now. He’s expected to battle it out with rookie Mac Jones for the starting job in training camp.

Here’s more from around the football universe as we wrap up a sleepy Sunday:

  • Damien Williams was a hero in the Chiefs’ Super Bowl LIV win, but he opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 and his mother having cancer. He was then released by Kansas City back in March, and promptly signed with the Bears within 10 days. It sounds like he knew exactly where he wanted to go, as Larry Mayer of the team’s official site passes along. “Sitting out a year and then coming back, I really didn’t want to learn a whole new system,” Williams said. “Coming here and kind of having the same system, same plays, it was easy for me.” Williams was referring to the similarity in Matt Nagy’s offensive scheme to Andy Reid’s. Nagy, of course, is part of the ever-growing Reid coaching tree, and was an assistant under him from 2008 all the way until becoming Chicago’s head coach in 2018. Clearly the familiarity was important to Williams, who turned 29 in April. With David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen returning from an ACL tear, and now Williams, the Bears should have a solid backfield in 2021.
  • We heard this past week that the XFL and CFL would not be pursuing a potential partnership/merger. That doesn’t mean we’ve heard the last of crossover talk. MLSE, the company that owns the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts, was the “catalyst for the XFL discussion,” within the league, sources told Dan Ralph of the Toronto Star. Ralph highlights the Argonauts breaking off and joining the XFL for their spring 2023 season as a possible solution. It’d be interesting to see, and could serve as a potential test-run for the NFL one day playing games in Toronto, something that has long been talked about.

XFL Now Planning 2023 Return

Previously planning a 2022 relaunch, the XFL has pushed back its return timetable. The league is now aiming to come back in 2023. This comes shortly after the months-long XFL-CFL talks did not produce a partnership.

While our discussions with the CFL did not ultimately lead to a collaboration, the effort reinforced our belief and commitment to developing the XFL for international spring football,” an XFL statement reads, via SportsBusiness Journal’s Ben Fischer (on Twitter). “We look forward to seeing everyone for kickoff in spring of 2023.”

[RELATED: CFL, XFL Will Not Pursue Partnership]

Attempting to reboot for a second time, the XFL has evidently determined a 2022 return would create too many challenges. The league release interestingly uses “international spring football,” pointing to the retooling operation potentially being open to housing teams beyond U.S. borders. The XFL’s talks with the CFL provided a good indication the in-hiatus league was open to either having its teams face off against non-American squads or merging with a non-American outfit.

The XFL and CFL engaged in talks that involved a possible championship game between the leagues, with the prospect of a merger also coming up. But the far more established Canadian league is moving on. After the COVID-19 pandemic led to the CFL canceling its 2020 season, the league is set to begin its 2021 campaign next month. The pandemic-induced uncertainty likely led to the leagues’ discussions.

The second XFL effort began reasonably well, until the pandemic halted the season midway through. This led to a messy legal situation and the league being put up for sale. Dwayne Johnson led a resurrection effort, acquiring the XFL last year. While the Alliance of American Football’s midseason demise and the XFL’s in-season shutdown a year later painted a dim picture for spring football in America, the latter remains intent on proving it can work.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

CFL, XFL Will Not Move Toward Partnership

A few months ago, the Canadian Football League and the again-retooling XFL entered talks about a potential partnership. Discussions reached the point of a championship game and a merger eventually occurring between the two leagues.

However, the sides may now be going their separate ways. An official CFL release Wednesday morning indicated the league will not look to partner with the XFL at this time. The CFL did not slam the door on a partnership transpiring one day, but that prospect appears dead for the time being.

[RELATED: XFL To Return In 2022]

The COVID-19 pandemic moved the CFL to cancel its 2020 season, but the league will return soon. The CFL is slated to open its 2021 season August 5. The season is scheduled to run through Dec. 12’s Grey Cup, which would be the 108th edition of the league’s championship game. The CFL also held discussions with The Spring League, an American minor league outfit. Those talks did not end up producing an agreement, either, and they came just ahead of the CFL canceling its 2020 season.

Despite the pandemic halting XFL 2.0’s season, and extensive legal issues cropping up in the wake of the hiatus, the winter-spring league — with Dwayne Johnson now its driving force — is tentatively expected to give it another try in 2022. It is unclear how the CFL talks pertained to the XFL’s latest revival effort, however.

CFL, XFL Considering Championship Game, Merger?

The XFL’s reboot did not make it through the full season, with the pandemic leading the league to nix the second half of it, and litigation followed. But under Dwayne Johnson, the league is yet again attempting to return.

As of now, the XFL plans to return in 2022. But the league is holding discussions with a far more established football brand. The Canadian Football League is in talks with the XFL. While an official CFL release describes these discussions as efforts to collaborate and “grow the game,” a true partnership may be the objective.

One of the options being discussed: a championship game between the two leagues, according to Front Office Sports’ Michael McCarthy, who adds that the game would occur after the two leagues crown champions. This would be similar to the AFL and NFL in the late 1960s, when four championship games — later referred to as Super Bowls — were held ahead of a merger. The CFL and XFL may hope to traverse a similar course. A long-term objective in play, per McCarthy: a CFL-XFL merger.

Considering how the XFL’s two launch efforts have gone, it would qualify as stunning to see the CFL link up with the fledgling league. The CFL has been in existence since 1958, but the COVID-19 pandemic also impacted its operation last year. The CFL did not play in 2020, losing out on considerable revenue. Last year, the CFL explored a partnership with The Spring League, an American outfit, so some momentum may exist for the Canadian operation to forge an agreement.

While the XFL started its two seasons in February, the CFL plays in the summer and into the fall. One party would need to shift its calendar in order for this unusual partnership to take place. The Canadian league currently houses nine teams; XFL 2.0 featured eight. The leagues also would need to work out rule harmony, with the CFL game featuring some obvious differences from the one the XFL played in 2020.

A Johnson-led partnership acquired the XFL from bankruptcy, and the league is tentatively expected to resume play in 2022. However, this may be contingent on how the CFL meetings go. Plans for a 2022 XFL return are on hold, pending talks with the CFL, XFL president Jeffrey Pollack said last month (Twitter link). It appears the two leagues are exploring what could be a necessary arrangement, one that would make for a fascinating development.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

XFL To Return In 2022

The Rock says the XFL will return in the spring of 2022 (Twitter link via Dwayne Johnson). This will mark the third iteration of the pro football league, which was recently acquired from original founder Vince McMahon.

As owners, we’re proud to champion our XFL players, coaches, cities and fans into an electrifying 2022 season! It’s an uphill battle – but we’re hungry, humble and no one will outwork us,” Johnson wrote. “[This will be] a league of culture, passion, and purpose.”

The XFL’s relaunch ended midway through its (re)inaugural season, prompting McMahon to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. McMahon put the league up for sale in May and reportedly attracted “dozens” of potential bidders. Ultimately, McMahon’s longtime WWE superstar presented the top offer. McMahon, meanwhile, still has some loose ends to tie up. Commissioner Oliver Luck sued McMahon and other execs have filed claims to collect their pay. The XFL released its players in March, allowing quarterbacks Josh Johnson, P.J. Walker, Jordan Ta’amu, and others to seek NFL deals.

There was some speculation to a 2021 return, but the current climate would make a short turnaround difficult. Instead, the XFL will take an additional year to get organized and land the television deals needed to make the league viable. The 2020 XFL included eight teams: the Dallas Renegades, the Houston Roughnecks, the Los Angeles Wildcats, the Seattle Dragons, the D.C. Defenders, the New York Guardians, the St. Louis BattleHawks, and the Tampa Bay Vipers. The 2022 iteration may or may not include all of those markets.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson To Buy XFL

Finally, the XFL has come back to the news cycle. On Monday, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson announced that he has purchased the XFL. Johnson’s group – with backing from Redbird Capital Partners – will acquire the league from Vince McMahon for $15MM, as Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com tweets

[RELATED: Former XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck Sues Vince McMahon]

The acquisition of the XFL with my talented partners, Dany Garcia and Gerry Cardinale, is an investment for me that’s rooted deeply in two things – my passion for the game and my desire to always take care of the fans,” said The Rock. “With pride and gratitude for all that I’ve built with my own two hands, I plan to apply these callouses to the XFL, and look forward to creating something special for the players, fans, and everyone involved for the love of football.”

The XFL’s relaunch ended midway through its (re)inaugural season, prompting McMahon to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. McMahon put the league up for sale in May and reportedly attracted “dozens” of potential bidders. Ultimately, McMahon’s longtime WWE superstar presented the top offer. McMahon, meanwhile, still has some loose ends to tie up. Commissioner Oliver Luck sued McMahon in April and other executives have filed claims to collect their pay.

The XFL 3.0, presumably, will target a 2021 relaunch. In the meantime, a number of XFL players are pushing for NFL roster spots in training camp.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

XFL 2021 Return In Play?

Spring football may have another chance. Despite the in-season cancellations of the Alliance of American Football and the XFL the past two years, the latter may try to relaunch one more time.

The XFL filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month, and Vince McMahon put the league up for sale earlier this month. Contrary to some rumblings, McMahon confirmed he has no plans to buy back the league at a lower cost, according to The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan (subscription required).

However, bidders have emerged, with Kaplan adding that potential buyers have indicated they would plan a 2021 XFL season. The league’s investment bank, Houlihan Lowkey, indicated “dozens” of prospective buyers have surfaced. Most are eyeing a spring 2021 season, Kaplan notes.

Although the 2020 XFL season did not make it as far as 2001’s did, the product was better received than the more sensational endeavor was 19 years ago. XFL’s first effort made it through the season but did not return for a second year. The COVID-19 pandemic ended up nixing the rebooted season halfway through its 10-game slate, and several XFL 2.0 standouts have landed on NFL rosters.

The second XFL effort included messy fallout as well. Commissioner Oliver Luck sued McMahon in April. Several of the eight teams’ presidents filed claims to collect their pay, Kaplan writes in a separate piece. The sale process may drag on until September, Kaplan adds. This would complicate matters regarding player acquisitions for a potential 2021 season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vince McMahon Puts XFL Up For Sale

Could the XFL reemerge for a third time? After shutting down the league, laying off all of its employees, and declaring bankruptcy, Vince McMahon has put the XFL up for sale, according to Dan Primack of Axios.

[RELATED: Former XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck Sues Vince McMahon]

The XFL and its managing investment bank has requested letters of intent to be submitted by June 12. After that, formal bids will be due on July 6. Together, they’re attempting to make a case for someone to purchase the XFL. They say the league was on track for $46MM in revenue last year with an average game attendance of 20K. While those attendance numbers might be accurate, the league was said to be handing out lots of free tickets to fill the seats.

It’ll be tough for the WWE czar to find a taker, industry investors tell Primack, though one source says it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

There are lots of people who are very rich but not rich enough to own an NFL team, so maybe someone will see this as the next best thing at a bargain price,” said the investor, who is not personally mulling a bid for the XFL.

The XFL released players from their contracts on March 12, allowing quarterbacks Josh Johnson, P.J. Walker, Jordan Ta’amu, and others to seek NFL deals.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Draft Former XFL S Kenny Robinson

The XFL is on the board. With the sixth pick in Round 5, the Panthers selected safety Kenny Robinson, who last played for the St. Louis BattleHawks.

Before his half-season in Vince McMahon‘s rebooted league, Robinson starred at West Virginia. As a sophomore, he made first-team in the conference, notched 77 stops, and hauled in a team-leading four interceptions. Then, he was ejected from the Mountaineers’ bowl game and booted from the program for alleged academic fraud.

With wingspan to swat passes and aggressive tackling (albeit, sometimes too aggressive), Robinson will look to make the cut in Carolina.

Former XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck Sues Vince McMahon

Former XFL commissioner Oliver Luck is taking Vince McMahon to court, as Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic writes. Luck is seeking restitution for what he says was a wrongful termination. 

[RELATED: XFL Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy]

The XFL shut down operations in the midst of its comeback season and, recently, filed Chapter 11 to renegotiate its debts. Meanwhile, Luck was set to earn at least $20MM on the multi-year contract he signed back in 2018. McMahon’s attorney says a letter was given to Luck to explain “the reasons” for his firing. In short, Luck is set to argue that he was fired without cause; McMahon will contend that he was fired with cause and, therefore, he does not owe him anything.

Luck helped steward the league’s relaunch, even as he and McMahon watched the Alliance of American Football beat them to the punch.

“We watched them closely,” Luck said in the summer of 2019. “Personally, there was no dancing on the grave, no schadenfreude. I was hoping they’d make it through their championship game. … It’s helped us a little bit, reaffirmed our model. The AAF also made some mistakes. (The Apollos), in the sports business, that’s like a pilot forgetting to turn the engine on.”

The XFL has laid off all of its employees with no current plans to resume operations, so this could be the last we see of the experimental league. However, McMahon may have lots of legal filings and court dates ahead of him – that’s usually the way things go for companies that file bankruptcy.

Luck, the father of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, should be able to land on his feet once the dust settles. After earning his law degree, Luck held key positions in the NFL, NCAA, and MLS.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.