The Spring League, a first-year professional football instructional league that includes some players who have been in mini camps and training camps with NFL teams, announced that a showcase game will take place on Saturday, July 15 at Napa Memorial Stadium.
Scouts from several NFL teams are expected to be in town when both teams, Spring League East and Spring League California, begin practice on July 10.
Spring League East features running back Anthony Dixon, who played for the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills, and defensive end Greg Hardy, a Pro Bowl selection in 2013, who played for the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys.
The Spring League California roster will consist primarily of players from California, officials said.
“The Spring League Showcase will provide the NFL with additional opportunities to evaluate players just before the start of training camps,” said Brian P. Woods, CEO of The Spring League. “We are thrilled to bring professional football to Napa Valley and to be playing at such a tremendous venue in Napa Memorial Stadium.”
Kickoff is at 5 p.m., and gates will open at 3:30 p.m. Woods said he hopes at least 1,000 to 2,000 fans attend the game.
Ticket prices range from $35 to a $150 sideline VIP ticket. Tickets are available by going to TheSpringLeague.com. Tickets will also be available at the stadium on the day of the game.
A special ticket price is available through Groupon and also the Napa High cheer team. All of the proceeds from tickets purchased through the Napa High cheer team goe directly to the cheer team, officials said.
The remainder of the ticket proceed goes to The Spring League.
“We are a business and need funding to help subsidize the valuable platform we’ve created,” said Woods, whose office is in New York.
Visit Napa Valley is helping to market and promote the game.
“We are promoting the game on our website (VisitNapaValley.com) and through other digital channels. We believe that high level sports events tie in perfectly with the wellness and active lifestyle that many of our guests are excited about,” said Clay Gregory, president and CEO of Visit Napa Valley.
Woods said the ticket prices have been determined by researching what other developmental leagues charge.
The Spring League provides each player with all of the equipment, including helmet, pads and uniform. Players are not paid and they are required to have health insurance, officials said. The Spring League provides trainers and a medical support staff.
The game will be officiated and will be played in accordance to NFL rules, said Woods, who would not specify what level the officials would be.
“We’re definitely going to have a solid group of NFL-caliber talent taking part in the showcase,” said Woods. “The idea behind this is, we bring them in, we provide them with meals, we give them instruction, we provide them with this platform to continue to develop their game to continue to get added repetitions they need and then be evaluated in front of NFL personnel directors and the like. It’s a very beneficial platform to the players.”
Woods said the objective in having the showcase game on the West Coast was due to weather and to introduce football fans to the league.
“First and foremost, we needed to be in a market where the weather was going to be conducive and where we’re able to get our practice days in,” said Woods. “Our primary objective was to find a suitable climate to operate in July. We really needed a good place for weather. We felt like the San Francisco Bay Area would be a good place to start. We knew about the stadium at Napa Memorial and thought that would be a great venue for what we were trying to do.”
He said the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau recommended the league talk to Visit Napa Valley and the Napa Chamber of Commerce about playing in the stadium.
“It just felt like that would be a unique event for an area like that. It’s a really nice venue,” he added.
The Spring League was created in early 2016 to serve as an instructional league and developmental platform for professional football talent, according to its website, www.thespringleague.com. The league conducts practices and exhibition games that are played in accordance with NFL rules. Besides practices and games, there is classroom instruction and film study.
“We’re not affiliated with the National Football League. However, we do maintain a very cordial relationship with all of the NFL clubs,” said Woods. “They’re very much aware of our operation and we expect to have numerous NFL clubs in attendance throughout the week at practices and even some teams in attendance at the game as well, because this is very much a scouting event for NFL clubs. It comes at a good time of year on their calendar where they might be able to identify a few players that they could bring in prior to training camps opening.”
The Spring League season runs during April and spans the course of three weeks. The Spring League’s current membership consists of four teams.
Woods expects at least 45 players for each team for the showcase game.
“Not all of the guys that participated in April will participate in the spring league showcase, but there will also be a mixture of new players taking part,” said Woods.
Terry Shea, a former head coach at San Jose State and an assistant under Bill Walsh at Stanford, will lead Spring League California. Shea has also been an assistant coach in the NFL for Kansas City, Chicago, Miami and St. Louis.
Spring League East will be led by head coach Donnie Henderson, who has been an assistant at Arizona, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, Detroit, Baltimore, Buffalo and the New York Jets.
“We had a lot of momentum that we wanted to capitalize on from our inaugural season,” said Woods. “Over 20 percent of our players were either signed or brought into NFL camps after the 2017 session of the spring league.
“I spoke to several NFL teams prior to putting the showcase together as another way for NFL teams to evaluate players right before training camps start, and all of the clubs like the concept of it.”
Practices and games for the league in April were held at a facility at the Greenbrier, a resort, in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Five games were originally scheduled; two were canceled due to bad weather.
Woods said the inaugural season has been “overwhelmingly successful.”
“We’re definitely growing the league,” said Woods. “It’s something that we’re hoping to continue to build on the success of.”