ROB MAADDI, AP Pro Football Writer
If Johnny Manziel or Tim Tebow want to play football again, The Spring League is ready for them.
The independent league will debut in April with four teams composed of free agents. They’ll start training April 5 at The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, and will play a total of six games there in a three-week span.
“There’s a tremendous need for a developmental and instructional league,” longtime NFL scout John Peterson told The Associated Press. “The purpose is to help players get selected for the NFL and other pro leagues in Canada or Arena football.”
Peterson, a former scout for the Seahawks and Panthers, will serve as the league’s president. The league isn’t affiliated with the NFL. Brian Woods, who previously founded the short-lived Fall Experimental Football League, is the CEO.
“The Spring League will utilize a business model that bodes well for sustainability,” Woods told the AP. “We’ve eliminated the high costs associated with traditional pro sports leagues, including team travel, multiple venues and player payroll.”
Players must submit an application along with a nonrefundable $350 fee and they will not be paid to play. Anyone who is not under contract can apply except players who are eligible for the 2017 NFL draft.
“This isn’t a tryout camp,” Peterson said. “We want players who have a passion to play and are sincere about the opportunity to showcase their talents in front of scouts and NFL people.”
So, Johnny Football and Tebow could play if they wanted. The league is geared toward giving veterans another chance to impress pro teams.
“The No. 1 position that needs players to develop is quarterback and the No. 1 valued position on defense is the pass rusher,” Peterson said. “How do we develop them? They need a chance to play live and that’s what this league is all about.”
Terry Shea and Mike Westhoff are among the experienced coaches who will be involved. Pro scouts will have access to watch practices, view tapes and interview players each day, similar to the Senior Bowl and NFL scouting combine.
The Spring League’s season ends before the NFL draft, so teams could possibly fill a void by signing a player to a futures contract.
“This is football. It’s not running the 40 and running around cones,” Peterson said. “They’ll practice twice a day, in full pads. The beauty of this for the evaluators is they have a chance to eyeball these players as they practice, as they watch games and personally visit with them through the interview process.”
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