If they still want to play professional football, they’ll have another option next spring.
National Spring Football League was made public in February to help players chasing their NFL dreams.
After getting financial help from private investors the league now has 12 teams prepared to take the field in the spring of 2014, with four more teams scheduled to be added to the league for the 2015 season.
The Georgia Blaze is one of the teams that will open play next year, and they will be playing their home games at McEachern High School’s Walter Cantrell Stadium.
The Blaze hired Hannibal Navies as its first football coach. Navies, a nine-year veteran of the NFL, played for the Carolina Panthers, Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals and the San Francisco 49ers.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity,” Navies said. “It’s exciting for me because I love developmental teams. I’m all about developing players on and off the field so that’s something I’m excited about doing. I want to give these players a shot to get to the next level.”
And it can also be a cure for football withdrawals.
“This is a dream come true for us. If you’re a football guy, to got to love it,” said chief executive officer Terrell Parham. “It’s a great opportunity for our staff and front office personnel, players and coaches. If the guys make it to the NFL from our level, it’s a win-win for us.”
Six of the individual team combines are this weekend, and the Blaze will have theirs Sunday at Grady Stadium. Coaches and scouts will have a chance to look at the players that didn’t get drafted last spring or ones that were cut from training camp or the Canadian Football League.
Unlike the minor league system in baseball, players can play in the NSFL for only three seasons, indicating that should be enough time for players to develop.
Parham prefers not to have players stuck in developmental league for more than a decade with no other place to go.
“One of my personal issues in some leagues,” Parham said, “is that players get paid $200 a game and he’s 33- or 34-years old. By that time, they should have moved on.”
The final team combine and mini-camp will be in November. The NSFL draft will be Jan. 15, 2014. Players will report for training camp Feb. 3 with the season set to begin March 1. Championship weekend is June 28.
The majority of the rules will be the same as the NFL, with the exception for punt returns. Punt returners will not be able to signal for a fair catch in the NSFL, but opposing players will not be able to get within five yards of the returner before he catches the ball.