The Spring League proposes partnership with CFL

The Spring League – where Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel made his return to football after leaving the NFL – is proposing a partnership with the CFL that could benefit both leagues amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

TSL began play in 2017 and its vision was to give players an opportunity to be seen against pro caliber talent and potentially earn a contract in the CFL or NFL. All teams utilize one central location, for both practices and games. The league’s unique format affords scouts and front office personnel an opportunity to evaluate players in a real football setting.

TSL CEO Brian Woods spoke to The Canadian Press:

“The Spring League has been here since 2017 and many of our players have made it on to CFL teams and in some instances been very productive. It’s been quite valuable to NFL teams, and even CFL teams for that matter. It’s absolutely of great importance to us that the CFL stays in operation.”

According to Woods, The Spring League has sent over 60 players to the CFL. That includes Toronto Argonauts quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Ottawa Redblacks receiver Jalen Saunders and Manziel.

The Spring League consists of four teams with each team playing in two games over the course of a three-week season. Its 2020 season took place in Las Vegas, Nevada. TSL also hosts showcases in the summer and fall to provide additional opportunities for players to be evaluated.

“It’s not many games but it’s enough for players to get current film. Most NFL teams, even CFL teams, that’s all they’re looking for, they want to see players in two games to kind of really evaluate them and get a good feel for it,” Woods said. “We’ve had to find a model that would work financially so we could sustain ourselves. We reached profitability last year and expect to have another profitable year.”

Woods’ proposal calls for between two and four CFL teams combining with Spring League squads at an unspecified U.S. location for three-to-four weeks.  Woods is open to adopting Canadian rules and playing on the longer, wider Canadian Football League fields.

“In 2019, the XFL asked us to test out some rules they were looking at for their 2020 launch. They paid us a low six-figure deal to work with them but we were willing to test out some rules because we’re a true developmental league.We’d be completely amenable to utilize most, if not all, CFL rules and we could absolutely incorporate the CFL guidelines as it relates to the field specifications.”

Woods has offered the option for CFL teams to practice and play against TSL squads. Apparently Woods has exchanged emails with CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie. The Spring League would be willing to play by Canadian rules and on the size of the field used north of the border.

“I believe it’s doable and I think there could be a monetary play here with TSN potentially even if it’s a limited number of games. And this isn’t foreign because there was a time when CFL teams operated in the U.S. I think Canada needs football. I think it’s important the CFL does something this year and is visible to some extent. Otherwise I fear for what could be ahead or what might not be ahead.”

Sources: 3Down Nation, The Canadian Press

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