With Michael Vick out of federal custody and potentially ready to return to football, there's all sorts of buzz around his eventual landing place. If NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn't think Vick should get a second shot with the big boys right away, the scrambling quarterback may have to work his way back through one of football's many secondary leagues, like the upstart United Football League, which is slated to begin play this October.
The UFL isn't the only non-NFL league that's storming the gridiron, though. There are all sorts of secondary and minor leagues out there for the football starved. Here's a look at a few them:
1. The United Football League
The Teams: For the inaugural 2009 season, the UFL is rolling out four teams in Orlando, Las Vegas, New York, and San Francisco, with expansion plans for Hartford and Los Angeles for the 2010 season.
The Season: For the 2009 season, each team will play six games followed by the championship game.
The Talent: The UFL hasn't scrimped on coaching; the four inaugural franchises will be coached by familiar names: Jim Fassel, Ted Cottrell, Jim Haslett, and Dennis Green.
Teams aren't pinching pennies on player salaries, either. While it's not NFL money, teams will have $16 million to pay players. No wonder marginal NFL guys like former Bills QB J.P. Losman have jumped to the UFL. (We're pretty sure Losman will still manage to target Lee Evans on every throw, even though he'll be doing his passing for the Vegas team.)
Interesting Nugget: The group of investors that put up the $30 million to buy the UFL's first four franchises has some nice political connections; leader Paul Pelosi is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's husband.
2. The Continental Indoor Football League
Best Primate-Based Team Name: The Miami Valley Silverbacks.
The Rules: Pretty similar to the familiar Arena Football League, except each side only has seven players on the field.
The Talent: Spotty. Some teams raided the AFL's rosters when that league suspended its season this year, so the 2009 CIFL season wasn't quite a parity-fest. The Chicago Slaughter had particularly good luck with this tactic, cruising to a 12-0 record and a CIFL championship.
3. The Indoor Football League
The Talent: Former NFL draft bust and noted shoplifter Peter Warrick plays for the Bloomington Extreme.
Funniest Team Name: The Omaha Beef, whose mascot is Sir Loin.
Most Equitable Form of Entertainment: Nobody can accuse the aforementioned Omaha Beef of sexism. While the team has a women's dance team, the Prime Dancers, they also have an all-male dance squad, the Rumproasters.
4. The American Indoor Football Association
Least Ferocious Sounding Team Name: The Erie RiverRats.
The Rules: Fairly similar to standard indoor football, except two players can be in motion at the time of the snap, and in another nod to Canadian football, any kickoff that goes through the uprights or isn't advanced out of the end zone earns the kicking team a point.
Retro Charms: The AIFA uses an ABA-style red-white-and-blue football, and at least nine players on each squad must be drawn from within a 120-mile radius around the team's hometown.
5. Lingerie Football League
The Concept: Have you ever looked at a Victoria's Secret catalog and thought, "Sexy women in their underwear are nice and all, but how could they react to a play-action fake?" This fall, the Lingerie Football League's 10-team inaugural season will attempt to fill this niche.
The Game: The players, clad in helmets, pads, bikini tops, and shorts, will play two full-contract halves of fifteen minutes on a regular 50-yard indoor football field.
Rule Changes: No kicking! A team has four downs in which to score or get a first down; there's no punting or field goal kicking. There aren't any kicked extra points, either. After a TD, teams can go for a one- or two-point conversion.
The Rosters: Each team only carries 12 players, meaning at least some of them have to go both ways. The league will probably need to come up with a more eloquent phrasing if they want to avoid snickering.
The Best Way to Show Your Team Spirit: Pick up your team's official uniform for $175.
Notably Absurd Team Names: The San Diego Seduction, the Los Angeles Temptation, the Las Vegas Homewreckers. (Okay, I made that last one up.)
6. Independent Women's Football League
The Teams: The league, which is organized as a giant nonprofit to help spread women's tackle football, boasts 51 teams and over 1600 players around the country. The teams are arranged into two tiers and play standard outdoor football, complete with some pretty vicious hitting.
One YouTube Video, Complete With Tremendous Theme Song:
7. Women's Football Alliance
Great Team Names: The league is flush with terrific names: the Las Vegas Showgirlz, the Marana She-Devils, and the Kentucky Karma all make the list.
Stat That's Apparently Real: Not every team in the fledgling league has quite caught on to this whole football thing just yet. The Kansas City Storm have scored zero points in five games (including 77-0, 74-0, and 88-0 shutouts) while racking up a stout -115 yards of total offense. That stat almost makes the scoreless Missouri Phoenix, who have yet to complete a pass, look like a robust offense by rolling up -7.4 yards per game.
But the League Has Its Own Version of Tecmo Bo Jackson: Baltimore Burn running back Stephanie Walker has piled up 1026 yards on just 78 carries this season, including 12 TD rushes.