The inaugural Spring League designed to give an additional development opportunity for certain types of players has unfolded mostly in anonymity. Its four teams began playing games earlier this year in West Virginia.
But the league is set for a bigger stage next month, and some former NFL notables will be participating. The Spring League will debut a showcase game on July 15 at Napa Memorial Stadium in California. Former Bills running back Fred Jackson, embattled defensive end Greg Hardy and former 49ers running back Anthony Dixon are among the players set to participate.
Nothing has emerged yet on this event being televised, but some relevant coaches will be on hand to instruct. Spring League California will face off against Spring League East, with Terry Shea leading the California squad and Donnie Henderson instructing the East team. Shea spent time with several franchises during the 2000s as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, and Henderson served as a defensive coordinator for two teams during that decade and spent the past four seasons as the Buffalo Bills’ defensive backs coach.
Jackson said recently he wants to return to the NFL for what would likely amount to one last season. The 36-year-old last played with the 2015 Seattle Seahawks. Hardy last played with the 2015 Dallas Cowboys but saw a domestic violence incident essentially end his time in the NFL. The former All-Pro defensive end is still just 28 but saw the league move away from him after a turbulent Cowboys stay.
Spring League CEO Brian Woods said in a release the league’s mission is to get players a chance to be noticed before NFL training camps begin. NFL rosters currently stand at 90 players, but roster turnover at the bottom of those contingents happens often, so it’s possible this event could lead to additional opportunities for a few of the players set to participate.