The Alliance of American Football is in danger of folding without cooperation from the NFL Players’ Association on becoming a development league, majority owner Tom Dundon told USA Today Sports Wednesday.
Dundon became chairman of the upstart, eight-team AAF in February after committing to invest $250 million during what was reportedly a critical point for the league’s finances. There has been discussion that part of the long-term plans for the AAF could include it serving as a development league for the NFL, which would loan young players–such as those on practice squads–to the circuit, but nothing has been finalized on that front.
The NFLPA has apparently not warmed to the idea of young players being loaned to the spring league, and Dundon feels it is putting the AAF’s future in question. As of Wednesday, Dundon indicated that the NFLPA’s stance was forcing the AAF to consider its options–including the possibility of discontinuing operations–and that a decision could come over the next two days. More from USA Today Sports:
“If the players union is not going to give us young players, we can’t be a development league,” said Dundon, who in February committed to invest $250 million into the league. “We are looking at our options, one of which is discontinuing the league.”
The NFLPA had no official response to the accusations that their lack of cooperation is prompting the AAF to fold.
However, a players’ union official did express serious concerns about the risks of lending active NFL players to the AAF. The official requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue.
The person said the players’ union is founded on the belief that using active NFL players and practice squad members for the AAF would violate the terms of the CBA and the restrictions that prevent teams from holding mandatory workouts and practices throughout the offseason. The limitations set in place are designed to ensure the safety and adequate rest and recovery time for football players. But there’s a concern that teams would abuse their power and pehaps force young players into AAF action as a condition for consideration for NFL roster spots in the fall.
Young players losing down time, and increasing the risk of injury by playing in the AAF during the spring months seems to be one of the NFLPA’s largest concerns. The AAF has been stocked during its inaugural season with former NFL players continuing their professional football careers–running back Trent Richardson, and quarterback Johnny Manziel among them–but using active NFL players during what is supposed to be their offseason presents separate concerns that the AAF and NFL would have to address with the NFLPA to make the development league concept a possibility.
Image courtesy The Alliance.