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McKay: No plans for an NFL developmental league

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BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Older fans of the NFL remember a time when the World League offered gridiron enthusiasts a springtime dose of football starring the likes of the New York/New Jersey Knights, London Monarchs and Frankfurt Galaxy.

Launching in 1991 and later rebranded as NFL Europe, the developmental league was disbanded for good in 2007. According to NFL Competition Committee head Rich McKay, don't hold your breath for a sequel.

"We have not really studied it lately," McKay told reporters on Monday. "It's been a long time since we looked at it, almost back to NFL Europe, and when we looked at NFL Europe and the value of NFL Europe, what we saw in NFL Europe was, it definitely had an impact on some linemen. It definitely had an impact on officiating. It was very costly. And in the end, we transitioned quite quickly to the idea that we liked having more practice squad players than we did a developmental league."

McKay called the NFL's choice to grow practice squads from five to 10 players "a conscious decision over time to expand ... where coaches can have the ability to coach their own players' techniques and develop their own players, realizing that you're never going to get that game action, but you're going to get your opportunity to put your hands on the player, teach the player -- and we felt like that was a better avenue over time than a developmental league."

McKay has heard the cries for the NFL to reconsider its stance on building an evolutionary version of NFL Europe, but emphasized: "It's not something that's been on the forefront."

The league isn't making this a priority, but it's hard not to dwell on how helpful such a system would be for quarterbacks. If it creates too much wear-and-tear at other positions, the in-game reps would be invaluable for the NFL's third- and fourth-string arms. After all, Kurt Warner and Jake Delhomme both played in Europe in the late-1990s before going on to Super Bowl appearances.

"I cut my teeth there and got to play a lot there, so I learned a lot," Delhomme said in 2007. "To me, it's a quarterback's league. That's what I believe. That's what I believe it was made for, to allow young quarterbacks to play and grow."

While the quarterback angle still makes sense, the NFL's research into a spring league leaned heavily on feedback from its coaches. Most of them would rather work with players one-on-one inside their own building during the offseason program. Don't look for this to change any time soon.

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