Photo Credit: Vegas Vipers


New FSM Feature: Vipers and XFL Looking To Strike In Vegas

Franchise Sports Media


The Las Vegas Vipers are looking to take a bite out of the Vegas market. We believe the rebooted XFL led by Dwayne Johnson is the right league at the right time for Sin City.

The XFL looks to take the Vegas market over with the Vipers.

Vipers vs Renegades Dwayne
Photo Credit: Rebecca Slezak/Dallas Morning News

The XFL has returned after a two-year hiatus. This is the third attempt for the spring football league, now head-to-head with the United States Football League (USFL), which finished its first campaign in 2022. The re-launched XFL has a famous name backing it as the former University of Miami, WWE, and film megastar DwayneThe RockJohnson took charge of the league as one of its new owners. Johnson is joined in the venture by his ex-wife and business partner, Danny Garcia, as well as Gerry Cardinale of RedBird Capital.

The XFL was first launched in 2001 by NBC and WWE as a counterweight to the NFL. Following some initial success, ratings plummeted, and the league folded after one season. Nearly two decades later, then WWE CEO Vince McMahon relaunched the league, this time not as a rival to the NFL but as a niche spring football startup.

McMahon poured over $200 million into the league, and early returns were good. The play was solid, and some markets, namely in St. Louis and Seattle, attracted strong attendance and enthusiastic fans. But the timing proved unlucky for McMahon because the COVID-19 pandemic struck five weeks into the inaugural season. The XFL received strong TV ratings and was praised for its on-the-field product, but the pandemic stopped the season and prevented the league from returning.

The league closed and then ultimately filed for bankruptcy. Johnson, Garcia, and Cardinale purchased the XFL for a bargain price of $15 million on August 7th, 2020, just hours before the league was set for auction.

This version of the XFL features eight football franchises across the country. The eight teams for this version of the XFL are the Arlington Renegades, St Louis Battlehawks, D.C. Defenders, Houston Roughnecks, Orlando Guardians, Seattle Sea Dragons, San Antonio Brahmas, and the Las Vegas Vipers. The league won’t return to Los Angeles, Tampa Bay, or the New York region, where they originally had franchises, for the 2023 season.

The new look XFL has a different feel to it from other spring leagues.  

There is a new hybrid structure for this iteration of the XFL.

The XFL has always been progressive with its rules and thinking. 

New FSM Feature: Vipers and XFL Looking To Strike In Vegas Luis Perez
Photo Credit: Kyla LaCoste

Starting in the 2023 season, the XFL has employed a new hybrid structure. All eight teams will practice in or around a hub in Arlington, Texas, where training camp was held in early January.

Teams will travel to their home markets for games that will be played in a combination of NFL/college stadiums, converted baseball parks, and soccer fields.

The XFL has held two drafts since the start of the year. They have also added about 50 players who finished the NFL season on practice squads. Most of the 51 players on each roster are what former Buffalo Bills GM Doug Whaley, the XFL’s senior vice president of player personnel, classifies as Nos. 53-75 on an NFL training camp roster.

Said Whaley: “It’s players that need to determine, and we as a league need to determine, whether they’re really just good college players that aren’t good enough to be NFL players or if they are NFL players that, for whatever circumstances, haven’t had the light shined on them to show that they can make it. There’s a tranche of players in there that can play really good football, and as we’ve been saying, and I’ve been saying, we are either going to be a launching pad for NFL careers or a soft landing where people can still live out their dream of playing professional football and then transition to another phase of their life.

Whaley and executive vice president of football operations, Marc Ross, have sold agents on deals that pay players $5,000 per week with a $1,000 bonus per win. Including other potential bonuses, the average player is estimated to earn about $60,000 from training camp through the end of the season. The XFL also valued its benefits package as worth an additional $20,000, in addition to paying for housing and two meals a day during the season.

For context, NFL practice squad players will earn at least $12,000 weekly in 2023. The minimum salary for NFL players on the active roster in 2023 will be $750,000.

Some quarterbacks are expected to receive higher salaries, although not as high as in 2020, when the XFL signed some passers to deals worth up to $500,000.

The XFL is promoting winning with its pay.

The XFL continues to be innovative with its rules and clock management.

The new XFL rules were made for football fans and use common sense. 

New FSM Feature: Vipers and XFL Looking To Strike In Vegas Vipers
Photo Credit: Kyla LaCoste

The XFL announced its official rules for the 2023 season, which include innovative changes in the areas of clock management, play reviews, and late-game possession designed to improve gameplay and enhance the fan viewing experience.

Our innovative rules are the cornerstone of our League and a clear example of our commitment to advance the game,” said XFL President Russ Brandon. “These changes will increase possession and scoring options while remaining true to the spirit of the game.

Some of the popular rule innovations, such as the tiered extra points (no kicks) and double forward passes, will return from the 2020 season. Teams will also continue to line up five yards apart on kickoffs, as they did in 2020, which resulted in fewer injuries and a 92% return rate per the XFL.

Some of the new innovative game features are an extra possession option. In addition to an onside kick at any point during the game, teams may now attempt to retain possession by converting a 4th and 15 play from their own 25-yard line in the fourth quarter only.

This season, the XFL also introduces a centralized ‘command center’ for instant replay review. Officiating will be led by Dean Blandino, Vice President of Officiating and Playing Rules Innovation, who will review everything from inside the command center. The command center will use a fully cloud-based instant replay program that offers “live integration during replay reviews and oversight of officiating discrepancies during all 43 XFL games,” per the XFL website.

In short, we studied the positive changes in gameplay, player safety, and fan engagement made in 2020 and have enhanced them to make the game and the viewing experience even more engaging,” said Dean Blandino. “We are adding a new level of transparency with our officiating that no sport has ever provided, allowing us to be more consistent with our calls when there’s a flag on the play. Instead of being separated in each stadium, my team and I will be together in the command center and will be responsible for initiating replay reviews and making streamlined decisions in real-time.

Below are some of the XFL’s new rules and modifications from 2020:

  • Clock will start following incomplete passes and out of bounds plays prior to two-minute warning of either half
  • Clock will stop following first downs after two-minute warning of either half
  • Play clock increased from 25 to 35 seconds*
  • Timeouts increased from 2 to 3 per team per half*
  • The XFL will operate with a 35-second play clock
  • No coin toss, no one-possession wins, no ties
  • Consists of alternating attempts from opponent’s 5-yard line
  • Three attempts per team (two points per score) or until winner is decided *
  • Two options to keep the ball after scoring
  • Traditional onside kick (any time during game)
  • 4th and 15 conversion from own 25-yard line (4th quarter only)*
  • Head coach allowed one challenge of any officiating decision once per game, with final ruling made by designated members of the officiating department in a central location (never been done before at any level)*
  • Centralized replay *
  • Replay may correct obvious errors on non-reviewable plays, player safety at any point during the game, and any issue that significantly impacts the outcome of the game in the last five minutes of regulation plus overtime
  • Kicking team and return team start play five yards apart


  • Eliminates high-speed collisions and enhances player safety


  • More returns, less touchbacks
    • 92% kick off returns in XFL 2.0 compared to 39.6% in the NFL
  • Average XFL drive started at the 29-yard line compared to the 25-yard line in the NFL



  • Tiered extra points are back


  • Teams will have three options for extra points following a touchdown


  • 2-yard line = one point; 5-yard line = two points; 10-yard line = three points
  • Replaces the traditional kick, providing teams a chance to score more points and build excitement within the game.



  • If a team completes a forward pass behind the line of scrimmage, that team may throw a second forward pass, as long as the ball has not crossed the line of scrimmage
  • Once the ball has passed the line of scrimmage, no forward passes are permitted
  • Less risky because the first pass may fall incomplete rather than becoming a live ball lateral
*New or modified in 2023

The early indications are fans like the new XFL rules. 

The Vipers are a good fit for Vegas and the XFL.

The XFL always was a great fit in Las Vegas.

New FSM Feature: Vipers and XFL Looking To Strike In Vegas Vipers offense
Photo Credit: Kyla LaCoste

The XFL and Vegas always have been a natural fit. Dating back to the original XFL with the Las Vegas Outlaws, the league and city seemed to have a symbiotic relationship. The league was owned by a maverick, over-the-top wrestling promoter. The Outlaws played football in the City of Sin with a player who had “He Hate Me” on the back of his jersey. Before the Raiders, they were pro football in the Entertainment Capital of the World.

But times have changed, and it is a good thing for the XFL. The league isn’t viewed as the initial league was—a football version of the WWE. Instead, the new-look XFL is viewed as a legitimate option for players looking for a shot to play in the NFL, to continue to play the game they love, or in former Alabama and current St Louis Battlehawks quarterback AJ McCarron’s case, not ride an NFL bench. He took a 98.5% pay cut ($4 million to $60,000), so his two sons could watch him play.


Vipers vs Defenders Rod Woodson
Photo Credit: Sam Hodde/Getty Images

The Vipers are coached by NFL Hall of Famer and Super Bowl Champion Rod Woodson, and you can fully expect the team to take on his personality. Woodson was an athletic, tough, physical, no-excuses player who came up big in the most demanding situations. That sounds a lot like the city of Las Vegas and its residents. The Vipers are playing this season at Cashman Field, but Woodson told the media recently, “You can throw some turf on the 215, and we’ll strap up and play on that.”

For Vegas football fans looking to fill the void of the NFL and College Football offseason, the XFL is the type of football you’re going to love. How can you not get behind players trying to fulfill their dreams? They are the 54th man on the NFL 53-man roster. From former first-round picks to college walk-ons, these guys are out there playing their hearts out to get a shot.

Like Las Vegas, the XFL is getting behind the long shots that aim to hit it big. If the early returns are any indication, football fans are smelling what The Rock is cooking. Over 6000 fans showed up at Cashman Field for the home opener in terrible weather. 

If you follow Franchise Sports Media, you know we love football. 702HSFB, UNLVfb, and the Silver and Black fill up the fall schedule around here. With the addition of Girls’ flag football and the Vipers, stay tuned for football year-round…

Aka, heaven on earth.

You should take the family to see the Vipers play on a Saturday afternoon.

The Vegas Vipers will welcome the Seattle Sea Dragons to the Snake Pit on Saturday. The kick-off is at 4 p.m. at Cashman Field, and the game can be seen on FX. For Vipers tickets, tap in here.


-Joe Arrigo – Franchise Sports Media

Follow Joe on Twitter & Instagram at @JoeArrigoFSM

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