(CBS DFW/ CBS Local) Now that the New England Patriots have paraded through Boston once again as winners of the Super Bowl, football fans may be feeling a twinge of sadness setting in, as the league won’t be back for another six months. However, the football void won’t last long if fans know where to look.
The Alliance of American Football, a new spring league, designed to be complementary to the NFL, begins its inaugural season of action this Saturday and Sunday, with four games split evenly across the two days. Featuring eight teams in Atlanta, Arizona, Birmingham, Memphis, Orlando, San Antonio, San Diego and Salt Lake, the league will play a 10-week schedule of 40 games lasting through the end of April, with the championship game set for April 27th at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.
CBS and CBS Sports Network are among the league’s several television partners that will air the games each week throughout the season. Coverage begins this Saturday night at 8 p.m. Eastern Time on CBS, with a pregame show hosted by Jamie Erdahl and Kurt Warner leading up to kickoff at 8:30. We caught up with Jamie on Wednesday as she prepares for her hosting and sideline reporting duties on Saturday night, when the San Antonio Commanders take on the San Diego Fleet at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
CBS Local Sports: First off, there are several rules that will be new to football fans. What are your thoughts on the new league and the rules that may be somewhat foreign to football fans?
Jamie Erdahl: I wouldn’t actually use the word foreign, I would say the rules have been modified, based on what we have been used to seeing at a college and professional level, to really adhere to the style of game that the Alliance is trying to put on the field. And, it also matches the players and their skill level and the amount of time that they have had to come together offensively and defensively.
The Alliance isn’t trying to reinvent football. What they are really trying to do is make it work with what the Alliance is trying to accomplish, which is a tighter game window, faster time between snaps and things like that. The Alliance is also working on a lot of things that the pro and college level want to look at too. Making sure the quarterback is protected, putting players in their best position, things like that.
Nothing is going to happen in these games on Saturday night or over the next 10 weeks that you’re going to say, ‘that looks absolutely foreign to me, that doesn’t look like football.’ The biggest thing you’re going to see is no kickoffs. Again I think that speaks to tightening up the time-frame within the broadcast window. The Alliance isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, I think they’re just trying to provide a product on the field that is able to satiate football fans from a year-round perspective.
CBS Local Sports: And on the no-kickoffs front, that’s a conversation that has been swirling for awhile around football as a potential path forward to ensure further player safety.
Jamie Erdahl: Yeah, I think it’s one of those conversations that has existed a lot at a lot of different levels from the NCAA to the NFL, and it would be a really daunting undertaking for those products to make that kind of alteration from a permanent perspective. From the NFL side, we saw them make some changes to extra points and field goals that were implemented first in the preseason and then in the regular season.
The Alliance is really taking advantage of one of the most popular opinions, which is the safety issues regarding kickoffs, and they are able to eliminate that conversation from the jump. I think it provides offenses a little bit more freedom on the back end. Does it eliminate that one explosive play you might get during a game? Yes. But, maybe it opens up the door for a few other options that we aren’t even privy to yet.
CBS Local Sports: A new league offers new opportunities for you as you host the pregame show with Kurt Warner. Have you had the chance to practice some with Kurt, and what’s that chemistry been like?
Jamie Erdahl: Kurt is a great partner. NFL Network and CBS have done several things together over the years, so I know that we are looking forward to having him on there. He brings the perspective of kind of having been one of these guys that was a “fringe player” and didn’t get that opportunity from the start. We all know his remarkable story and his past that led to the great career that he ended up having. To have that perspective and refresh everybody once again that, not that it’s the end goal of every player that signs with the Alliance, but there is some possibility there.
The Alliance and Bill Polian and Charlie Ebersol aren’t trying to say that you can only come to the Alliance as the place where you succeed. There’s a reason why they are playing the week after the Super Bowl and ending before the Draft. They are trying to give a platform to see guys at a different level and time frame, something that Kurt Warner didn’t really have when he was first going through the process. He is the perfect fit, right from the start, for him to be that voice of experience.
CBS Local Sports: You’re also on the call for one of the league’s first games, as the San Antonio Commanders host the San Diego Fleet. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned in preparing for that game on Saturday?
Jamie Erdahl: The biggest story for me, in terms of what I focused on for this game, is the coaches that the Alliance has picked across the board for all of these teams. These are coaches who are not trying to make a name for themselves for the first time in football. The Alliance did a great job of picking coaches who had a great representation at various levels in football and can bring experience and great teaching and coaching to these players.
We have Mike Martz in San Antonio on Saturday night, and I’m excited to talk to him before the game. What I focused on mostly for the pregame show is really just the remarkable path that these coaches have taken to get to this level and provide the players another opportunity to grow and learn the game and put on a product that could potentially take them to another level.
CBS Local Sports: What do you think fans should expect from this league?
Jamie Erdahl: I would say to fans that you shouldn’t expect to hear the everyday names that you are used to hearing, but that doesn’t mean that the football is going to be any less exciting or that you should lessen your expectations. A good number of people like to watch the games because of certain players, but I would argue that a lot of football fans are watching for that exact reason, because they are fans of the game.
This is just another opportunity for fans to fill up on something they really love. Just keep your mind open to the fact that you already love the game and there is a reason you’re tuning into the game, so learn who the players are and kind of grow together. Take it for what it is. It’s an opportunity to watch football in the offseason and see what it can become.
Here’s the full schedule of CBS/CBSSN games this season. For The Alliance’s full TV listings, head here.
Saturday February 9th
Atlanta Legends @ Orlando Appollos, 8 p.m. ET (CBS)
San Diego Fleet @ San Antonio Commanders, 8 p.m. ET (CBS)
Sunday February 10th
Memphis Express @ Birmingham Irons, 4 p.m. ET (CBSSN)
Sunday February 17th
Orlando Appollos @ San Antonio Commanders, 4 p.m. ET (CBSSN)
Sunday February 24th
Birmingham Irons @ Atlanta Legends, 4 p.m. ET (CBSSN)
Sunday March 3rd
San Antonio Commanders @ Birmingham Irons, 4 p.m. ET (CBSSN)
Sunday March 10th
Memphis Express @ Atlanta Legends, 4 p.m. ET (CBSSN)
Sunday March 17th
San Antonio Commanders @ Atlanta Legends 4 p.m. ET (CBSSN)
Sunday March 24th
San Diego Fleet @ Arizona Hotshots, 4 p.m. ET (CBSSN)
Sunday March 31st
Atlanta Legends @ Birmingham Irons, 4 p.m. ET (CBSSN)
Sunday April 7th
Salt Lake Stallions @ Atlanta Legends, 4 p.m. ET (CBSSN)
Sunday April 14th
Birmingham Irons @ Orlando Apollos, 4 p.m. ET (CBSSN)