Pro sports grind to a halt

XFL cancels season but is ‘committed to playing in 2021’

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The professional sports world came to a stop two weeks ago due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The NBA, NHL and MLS all suspended its seasons while MLB canceled the rest of its spring training and pushed back opening day. The NFL canceled its league meetings set for March 29 through April 1 but will look to keep the rest of its season-opening procedures in place with free agency starting last Wednesday.

The other professional league in season was the re-booted XFL which had reached its halfway point in the regular season.

“Currently, the XFL will not be playing its regular-season games,” a statement released on March 12 states. “However, all players will be paid their base pay and benefits for the 2020 regular season. All XFL ticket holders will be issued refunds or credit toward future games. The XFL is committed to playing a full season in 2021 and future years.”

The Houston Roughnecks finished the season atop the standings at a perfect 5-0 behind all-star performances from quarterback PJ Walker, wide receiver Cam Phillips and a stellar defense.

Walker led the league in passing yards (1,338), passing touchdowns (15) and attempts (185) while Phillips was tops in receptions (31), receiving yards (455), receiving TD (9), targets (44), and longest reception (84 yards). On Monday he was picked up by the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.

On the defensive side of the ball, there were a pair of Roughnecks in the top 10 of tackles, Beniquez Brown (3rd with 36) and DeMarquis Gates (8th with 32), five defenders with two sacks which was tied for fourth in the league, and two more atop the interceptions total with Deatrick Nichols (3) and Cody Brown (2) leading the way.

Along with his pair of interceptions, Bellville’s Brown compiled 24 total tackles, a sack, a quarterback hit and three pass breakups in yet another opportunity that ends out of his control.

After graduating from Bellville High School, he attended a prep school before playing for Independence Community College which helped him get to Arkansas State. From there, he was a mainstay in the short-lived Alliance of American Football before it folded, although that led to a chance with the Jacksonville Jaguars. A torn meniscus brought him back to square one where he was a late pickup for the Roughnecks and certainly showed what he’s got.

“If I haven’t signed a contract after this, hopefully they would love to have me back,” Brown said in a phone interview on March 13. “I know I would love to be back but right now I’m just trying to catch up to the moment.”

He added that if this is indeed the end of the first rebirthed XFL season, “We’re the inaugural champions,” Brown said with a laugh. “If it ends today and the 2020 season is over then the Roughnecks are the champions.”

The league seemed to have made its cancelation at just the right time as it was reported on Saturday, March 14, that an unnamed player on the Seattle Dragons had tested positive for the coronavirus. The XFL confirmed it in a statement released the following Sunday.

“A player for the Seattle Dragons has tested positive for COVID-19,” the statement says. “The player participated in the March 7 game against the Roughnecks in Houston and was asymptomatic at that time. He self-reported to team medical staff on March 10 and has been in quarantine since. A test was administered as early as possible, with the results received March 13.

“Each player was screened for symptoms, educated on the CDC recommended guidelines, and offered free extended-stay housing for those that chose to self-quarantine,” the release says. “The league is alerting players, staff, vendors and partners associated with the Dragons, Roughnecks, and BattleHawks, as this player also participated in the Feb. 29 game in St. Louis. The XFL is monitoring the situation closely and taking every measure necessary in accordance with recommendations set forth by the CDC and the Washington State Department of Health.”

See next week’s edition for a feature story on Brown’s season in the XFL.

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