Kevin Gilbride
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

The XFL’s incoming New York squad hosted its first on-field activities, as head coach Kevin Gilbride observed a Summer Showcase on Friday.

Geoff Magliocchetti

Even as the NFL hits a rare dormant period on their calendar, professional football is undoubtedly active. Another attempt at spring proceedings gets underway.

The new incarnation of the XFL is in the process of hosting its first on-field action. Events labeled “Summer Showcases” have begun in each of their eight host areas. A league descendence upon the metropolitan area took place on Friday afternoon as a New York edition was held at Sprague Field on the New Jersey campus of Montclair State University. Head coach Kevin Gilbride was on hand to observe, along with commissioner Oliver Luck.

“They certainly didn’t disappoint. There’s an enthusiasm, there’s a hunger. There’s no fat cats here, no one thinking they’re above doing anything. Every one of them put forth a 100% effort, it was obvious,” Gilbride said of the candidates. “It was obvious that there were guys diving and doing everything they could to make a positive impression, which is what I thought we would see, and they certainly followed through with that.”

104 athletes were invited to Friday’s event. Many had local connections through previous football experiences. New Jersey’s own Rutgers, for example, sent two defensive linemen (Myles Nash and Darius Hamilton). Syracuse featured all-time receptions leader Ervin Phillips and blockers Sean Hickey and Andrew Tiller. Other local schools represented included Stony Brook, Albany, and Monmouth.

Several NFL alumni were also in attendance, like ex-New York Giants rusher Andre Williams. The most prominent attendee was Giants Super Bowl champion, Hakeem Nicks. The former first-round pick is seeking to make a return to pro football. His last NFL action came during the 2016 preseason in a vain attempt to make the New Orleans Saints’ roster.

Nicks said a March workout with Eli Manning inspired him to attempt a comeback. He also reunited with Gilbride, the Giants’ offensive coordinator from 2007-13. Gilbride was the first person Nicks greeted when he arrived in Montclair.

“I learned so much from Coach Gilbride,” Nicks said. “Coach Gilbride was one of the coaches, if not the best coach, that I’ve played for, along with Tom Coughlin…Coach Gilbride and Coach Coughlin, they’re some great coaches that I came up under. Being drafted in the first round, where they drafted me back in 2009, putting a lot on me on an early age, making me understand concepts, read defenses on the fly….He used to get on me for that. Then, as the years got on it, I picked up on that, excelled on it. When I went to the (Indianapolis) Colts for that one year, I took all that with me.”

Participants took place in individual positional drills, as well as traditional football activities like the 40-yard dash, a broad jump, and three-cone drill. The Friday roster was built through invites to players, but teams don’t have priority to the athletes despite their local prescience. A draft will be conducted later this year, while team names and color schemes will be unveiled sooner. A source said to expect the latter by “mid-to-late July”.

After the drills, Luck addressed and educated spectators about the XFL’s new innovations. The league has repeatedly stated that they will not retain the infamous wrestling-style gimmicks from the original attempt in 2001. But Luck did showcase proposed new ideas that the XFL hopes will streamline the game and make it unique.

For example, Luck explained that extra points will eschew kicking and could instead work in a tier-based system that could make scoring drives worth as many as nine points. Under this proposed rule, a play from the two-yard line would be worth one point, while attempts from the five and ten-yard marks would be respectively good for two and three. Luck’s proposed overtime system is expected to be faster and allow both offenses to take the field.

The XFL’s opening games are currently scheduled for Feb. 8, 2020.

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