So, this is the future of football, once the carnage of full contact becomes too much to bear. After our self-driving cars deliver us to the stadium and the robot ushers take us to our seats, we will be treated to some seven-on-seven drills that have been elevated to the level of drama.
Saturday night at Kennesaw State was an early glimpse of when tackle football becomes as primitive and obsolete as the war club.
The star of this American Flag Football League tournament wore no padding, for armor was unneeded. Instead of a helmet, Michael Vick chose a visor, at first with the bill facing strictly forward, but then gradually making its way to the rear. It traveled from noon to, oh, about 4:25 on his famous head.
Some of the rules were foreign to the former, fallen Falcons quarterback. No tackling, of course. The quarterback could not take off and run unless rushed. And his position gets to wear a neat belt that lights up when his flag is pulled.
Others might have been vaguely familiar. Like the no blocking rule. There were plenty of times during Vick’s NFL career that the Falcons seemed to follow that one.
Some would have been hugely beneficial to the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback. Such as the fact that there are no fumbles in flag football. To think, he might have lived in a world in which ball security never would have been an issue.
Four teams stocked with former NFL players were added to the final stages of a million-dollar AFFL tournament, as they made their debut at Kennesaw State’s Fifth Third Bank Stadium this weekend. One will eventually play the survivor among the more established flag teams for a championship of tackle-free football in Houston. All televised by the NFL Network, as it prepares for the future.
There was little time for the pros to get into the playbook and work on the game plan. But some aspects of throwing and catching require little preparation. Vick is 38 now, but can still wing it. Improvisation was always his greatest gift.
Befitting his standing in the Atlanta environs, Vick alone was introduced to the crowd at the start of the game, jogging onto the field from behind one end zone as the featured soloist. And all those in attendance who finally found another use for the No. 7 Falcons jersey they bought back in 2002 cheered appreciatively.
Alas, Vick’s Roadrunners lost to the team headlined by former Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Johnson (Team Ocho) 26-13. Vick’s non-contact comeback was one-and-done.
He completed the vast majority of his throws, as one is meant to in flag football. I guess there were stats, but they really don’t have much meaning in this form of the game. The interception in the last two minutes that sealed his defeat really wasn’t Vick’s fault, as the throw clanked off a receiver’s hands.
While all smiles afterward, Vick didn’t come to the post-game press conference. So, no piercing insight there.
Those who did seemed quite taken by this form of the game, commenting about the great growth potential of flag football over flog football. Seems the thought of being able to play without putting one’s brain in a blender has some merit.
Neither Vick nor many who watched him Saturday night at Kennesaw State will be a part of the debate on that day when tackle football is outlawed and only outlaws play tackle football. But I sure will miss the good ol’ days of blood and trauma.
As for Saturday night itself, there was another old, persistent debate that came to mind.
I wonder how many left the building thinking that somehow, Matt Ryan would have won that game.