NFL players scrimmaging against UFL players this summer? Possibly on television? Possibly in a seven-on-seven format? The scenario is being discussed by UFL officials as a way to increase visibility - and to give fans their football fix -- if the NFL's labor impasse goes deep into the summer.
"If they wanted to, we'd scrimmage against their players and do some things like that and consider some things like that," said UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue. "Who knows if that would ever happen? But the concept has been talked about, the same as 'loner players.' None of that may come to fruition, but there have been some conversations."
Huyghue notes that the idea is not without precedent. During a 1982 NFL players strike, the players held two all-star games, one on the east coast and one on the west. Both, however, turned out to be financial disasters. Only 8,700 fans watched the game at RFK Stadium and just 5,331 showed up the next day at the L.A. Coliseum. Ted Turner, who bought the broadcast rights to both events, lost $800,000.
The games also didn't do much for player solidarity as many of the top names bailed out at the last minute. "It's just a shame more players don't decide to play. I'm disappointed also in the crowd," kicker Mark Moseley, who won the game for the NFC East, told The Washington Post at the time. "I thought more Redskin fans would support the union and the players by turning out. They missed an exciting game."
The UFL is not making any sudden moves to take advantage of an NFL work stoppage but is considering several, which I will detail later this week. And, who knows, the longer the impasse lasts, the more willing the players might be to use the UFL and other leagues as a wedge. Free agent Justin Babin implied as much earlier this month. Officials from the former NFLPA did not return several calls and emails seeking comment.
"I know those leagues would love to grow their awareness and if they got a certain amount of high-profile guys to join in, the money would go from the NFL pool to the CFL or UFL pool and maybe they could negotiate a TV deal," Babin told Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. "Now that would scare the [blank] out of the NFL owners if they could pull something like that off, you know?"
-- Matt Barrows