Of course, I feel compelled to point out the league with the most exciting players generally seems to be the most exciting league. On that front, the UFL has some work to do. As far as the rules, though, the UFL is distancing itself from the so-called "No Fun League."
"The UFL's Competition Committee looked at the current rules that govern most professional football leagues and determined ways to enhance the overall experience for both the players and the fans," said San Francisco Head Coach Dennis Green and Chair of the League's Competition Committee. "Our mission is to provide greater access to traditionally off-limit locations, including the locker room and behind the bench, to better engage the fans and bring them closer to the action. While enhancing the overall fan experience, the UFL took strict measures not to employ any stunts or gimmicks that would compromise the overall integrity and competitiveness of the game."So, basically, they'd like to have more fun and provide more access than the NFL, but not get even close to XFL-level absurdities.
A summary of some of the rules differences:
- The notorious "tuck rule" from the NFL is not included. This rule is one of the most discussed, due to the unpopularity among fans and the popularity among officials. In the NFL version, once a passer's arm starts to come forward, it's a pass. Even if he voluntarily puts his hand in front of the ball to stop his pass and drops the ball, it's incomplete and not a fumble. The Cardinals wanted it applied on the final play of the Super Bowl, but the officials correctly ruled Kurt Warner's arm wasn't moving forward before the ball came loose. In the UFL this would have been ruled a fumble without argument [edited for clarity, see comments 1 and 2].
- Fumbling out of the end-zone means the ball will be placed back at the spot of the fumble. In the NFL, it's either a safety or touchback (with a loss of possession) depending upon which team had possession last.
- There is no intentional grounding penalty, whether in the pocket or out; whether under duress or not. The quarterbacks will be allowed to ground the ball. This seems to favor the offense in a big way. Anytime the quarterback is about to get sacked, he could simply throw the ball into the ground. In this case, it would seem only blind-side sacks will occur.
- Sudden-death rules apply in overtime like the NFL, except both teams get at least one possession. So, if one team marches down the field and scores, the opponent will get one chance to match or exceed the score. This is something many fans of the NFL have wanted for some time. It also seems to give some incentive for teams to kick off in overtime, hoping the defense makes a stop and they get good field position. If not, they get a chance to match the score anyway.
- "Tasteful" (good luck defining that, by the way) individual and/or group celebrations will be permitted in the end-zones or bench areas. Only. ("Only" was capitalized and underlined in the press release). We've got to assume the type of dancing that would be a player fined tens of thousands of dollars in the NFL would be acceptable in this league -- judging from the language at hand.
- Instant replay will be used, but only by the replay official. He'll have 90 seconds. This is likely in response to the cries of some fans that NFL referees may not wish to overturn a call someone on their crew has made, for fear it show up the official who made the call. For the record, I don't believe any NFL referees have any intention other than getting the call correct. But, I guess this will quell any fan concerns of something otherwise.
Some broadcast differences:
- Head coaches will be wired for sound-bites during the game, and cameras and microphones will be played along the benches to "capture real-time emotional moments." They won't be airing any strategic discussions, though.
- Coach-to-quarterback communications will be heard by the viewing audiences, on a tape-delayed basis.
- Cameras will be around in the locker rooms for the first four minutes of halftime.
All in all, the UFL is on a better track to build an audience than the XFL, NFL-Europe, WLAF and many other failed entities. Still, the question remains: Is there room for more than one professional football league in America? Arena League held on for a while, but eventually ran out of gas. It just doesn't seem like it can be done, but many fans will enjoy the differences between the NFL and UFL.