Professional football is coming back to Los Angeles.
The NFLPA will hold a game in Los Angeles on January 21st featuring 100 draft eligible players split into two teams coached by Super Bowl winners Tom Flores and Dick Vermeil. The two men haven’t faced each other in a game since Super Bowl XV, when Flores’ Raiders beat Vermeil’s Eagles 27-10 in New Orleans.
“The NFL Players Association wants this to be more than just a game, they want it to be a NFL educational experience,” Vermeil said. “This will be these players’ first introduction to the National Football League without the pressure of making a team in training camp. By the time they are drafted and go to training camp they will have an understanding of what’s expected of them, having worked with NFL coaches and players for a week. There won’t be anything like this.”
Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com has all the details on the game, which will feature a week of practices with current and former NFL players who will counsel players on what to expect when they move up to the professional level. That makes the game, which will be called the AstroTurf NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, similar to the Senior Bowl but there is one big difference.
The NFLPA game will also be open to underclassmen who make themselves available to the draft. That could mean players like Andrew Luck, Landry Jones and Justin Blackmon could play in the game, although it is far too early to start speculating on just which players will declare and whether they would put themselves into the game.
The other big thing about the game is the location. It will take place at the Home Depot Center, home of the MLS’ Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA, but it is impossible to take any forays into Los Angeles as mere coincidence given how much chatter there is about putting a team back into the city. The fact that the Home Depot Center is owned by AEG, the group trying to build a new NFL stadium in the city, is another sign that there’s something more afoot here. NFLPA executive director Clark Gaines admitted there was some ulterior motive in an interview with Markazi.
“L.A. has not had a professional football presence for many years and we thought it would be a perfect opportunity now that they are trying to bring football back to L.A.,” Gaines said. “This might be a boost in that effort. Having a team in L.A. is very important and if we can help in any way we will.”
Whether or not this game helps that cause remains to be seen, but there will be an NFL vibe in L.A. next January for the first time in a long time.