February 13, 2005
Force drop Rattlers; Arena Football back downtown
I've watched Arena League ball on television, but I'm not sure TV does it justice. In a lot of ways, it's like backyard ball: The field is only 50 yards long, and 4-foot-high bumper pads surround the playing field. The goal posts are slightly less than half the width of the NFL's uprights, with a crossbar 5 feet higher than the senior league. Stretching from the uprights to the sidelines are vertical nets that bounce any ball that comes in back onto the field of play, where it's live until it hits the ground.
Each team plays 8 players at a time, with about half playing both ways, on offense and defense. There's no punting, and looser rules about offensive motion; one receiver can be running at full speed at the moment the ball is snapped.
With all the rule changes, it's almost more like pinball than football. The game I saw finished 61-47.
The liberties the league takes with traditional football rules can cause a little confusion. Maybe I'm just not football-smart, but Arizona did something that seemed unbelievably stupid. Twice.
Arena League teams kick off from their own goal line, and typically the kickoff bounces off the backstop nets, forcing the return man to turn his back on the onrushing defenders, grab the ball, turn around, and sprint for a hole. Twice on Saturday, the Rattlers attempted an on-side kick. From their own goal line. Giving Georgia the ball on about the 11-yard line.
The new rules also may lead you to come up with your own favorite rule tweaks. My suggestion: If a kicker can put the kickoff through the 9-foot-wide uprights (from 50 yards away) give his team 1 point, and let them kick it again.
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