No kickoffs as AAF action kicks off this weekend

As the whistle has blown on the Super Bowl, the Patriots' victory parade has concluded and the NFL season has come to its conclusion, it's time for another football campaign to start.

In San Antonio and Orlando on Saturday, the Alliance of American Football will kick off its initial season -- even if the AAF doesn't have kickoffs.

Nope; no kickoffs for the AAF and its eight franchises as the San Antonio Commanders host the San Diego Fleet and the Orlando Apollos welcome the Atlanta Legends on Saturday in the first foray of league action. A day later, the Salt Lake Stallions will travel to play the Arizona Hotshots and the Memphis Express will head over to play the host Birmingham Iron.

Whether you tune in late or on time, you won't miss kickoff, as there will be no kickoffs in the league, as one of a handful of changes from the NFL game.

"The players got used to it very quickly," former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira said via the Associated Press on Tuesday. "It's a bit of a time saver. Our goal is to play in 2 1/2 hours."

Pereira is a consultant for the spring league, which recently held a quartet of exhibition games.

Founded by longtime TV and movie producer Charlie Ebersol and NFL Hall of Famer Bill Polian, a former general manager for the Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers who was also president of the Indianapolis Colts, the league offers a host of changes.

While a lack of kickoffs should shorten the game, it's also designed for safety.

A good deal of the changes are in the kicking game, or lack of one. There are no point-after attempts as teams must go for two-point conversions and there are no field goals in overtime.

Continuing with the hopes of a quicker pace, the play clock is 35 seconds (the NFL uses a 40-second game clock) and replay will play out in a two-challenge system.

There is also a SkyJudge official, who will be able to hopefully correct infractions that involve player safety anytime during the contest and pass interference over the last five minutes of regulation.

"If you get a helmet-to-helmet spear and it's not called on the field, it can be picked up by the ninth official," Pereira said. "He has the ability to do it in real time. It doesn't go to replay. ... He can call down to the field and say, 'Hey, spearing on No. 33 of Birmingham, 15-yard penalty, let's go.'

"It's correcting errors on the field by another member of the officiating crew without having to go to replay to do it and having a three-minute stoppage to do it."

In another lofty change to game play, as there are no kickoffs there are obviously no onside kicks. Instead, teams can opt for "onside conversions." What that entails is a team -- if it is trailing by 17 or more points with five minutes or less in the game -- can follow a touchdown by trying to convert a fourth-and-12 play from its 28-yard line.

In overtime, each team gets a possession from its opponent's 10-yard line. Only touchdowns are allowed and games will end in ties after one possession each.