Normally around this time of year, NFL teams have begun scrambling to sign those undrafted free agents that were not selected in the seven round of the NFL Draft, concluded this past weekend. Players would be signed to minimum contracts with the chance that a solid Training Camp could be their springboard to earning a spot on an NFL roster.
Unfortunately, due to the frozen labor dispute that prohibits teams from contacfting, much less signing these players, they remain in limbo and uncertain of their future. Will they have a chance to play pro football or will they be looking for a nine-to-five job like the rest of us in the rat race?
Right now, their options are not limited to waiting to see what happens in the NFL. The United Football League (UFL) held their annual draft for their 2011 season and the five teams will play their regular season beginning in August and lasting into October, when they will play their Championship Game. Teams are comprised of former college and pro players from both the NFL and Canadian Football League and are coached by former NFL coaches, such as Jim Fassel, Jerry Glanville, Dennis Green and Marty Schottenheimer.
The five UFL teams are the Hartford (Connecticut) Colonials, Las Vegas (Nevada) Locomotives, Omaha (Nebraska) Nighthawks, Sacramento (California) Mountain Lions and Virginia (Hampton Roads-area) Destroyers. The are a few rule differences between the UFL and NFL. Thankfully, there is no such thing as the (Tom Brady) "Tuck Rule," and the QB can legally ground the ball while in the pocket to avoid a sack. There are also requirement on down lineman and who can blitz. Also, group celebrations are permitted and the replays are called for and decided by a referee in the booth, not by the refs on the field.
While some of the players drafted are former NFL players as mentioned earlier, many are kids that were not selected this past weekend but NFL teams would love to fil out their rosters by signing these guys and getting them into camp to compete for roster spots. Imagine the decision-making going on in homes all across the country by college players who will have to either gamble on getting a lower paid but guaranteed spot in the "minor league" UFL versus waiting and hopefully getting that call that promises a shot at the big leagues.
Here are the first five picks and descriptions of the players selected, one by each team in the 2011 UFL Draft:
#1 OVERALL - HARTFORD COLONIALS - QB JERROD JOHNSON, TEXAS A&M
Johnson, a rookie, was a dual-threat quarterback for the Aggies. His best collegiate season came as a junior in 2009, as he threw for 3,579 yards and 30 touchdowns while completing 59.6 percent of his passes, and ran for 506 yards and eight TDs. Johnson started all 13 games for A&M in 2009, and was a second-team all-Big 12 pick. As a senior in 2010, Johnson passes for 1,947 yards and 14 touchdowns.
#2 OVERALL - OMAHA NIGHTHAWKS - CB REYNALDO HILL, FLORIDA
Hill played for the National Football League's Tennessee Titans from 2005-08, appearing in 48 games with 26 starts. Hill's career NFL numbers include six interceptions for 108 yards and a touchdown, 11 pass breakups and 126 total tackles. He had a 52-yard interception return touchdown as a rookie against the Oakland Raiders.
#3 OVERALL - SACRAMENTO MOUNTAIN LIONS - QB RYAN COLBURN, FRESNO STATE
Colburn, a rookie, comes into the professional ranks off his best collegiate season in 2010. Last fall, he threw for 2,817 yards and 23 touchdowns while completing 63.1 percent of his passes. Colburn also ran for three touchdowns in 2010. In 2009, he passes for 2,459 yards and 19 touchdowns, and ran for 171 yards and two more scores.
#4 OVERALL - VIRGINIA DESTROYERS - DE MARTAIL BURNETT, UTAH
An undrafted free agent in 2008, Burnett spent the entire 2008 season on the Minnesota Vikings' practice squad. He also has been on the San Francisco 49ers' practice squad. Burnett started 32 games to finish his collegiate career, and ended his Utah career with 17 sacks and 33.5 tackles for loss.
#5 OVERALL - LAS VEGAS LOCOMOTIVES - OT JOEL BELL, FURMAN
Bell was undrafted in the 2009 NFL Draft, and has spent time with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League, who played in the 2009 CFL Grey Cup. Bell was an All-American and a two-time first-team all-Southern Conference pick from 2005-08 at Furman.
(For a complete list of the players selected in the 2011 UFL Draft, click here)