Developmental league FXFL satisfied with first season, plans expansion

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The four-team FXFL's first season is over, and the developmental league's founder is eager to get started on Year 2.

"I think we had a great first season, given the accelerated timeframe we operated under," says Brian Woods, commissioner of the league. "We are very pleased at the response from the public. This model has proven itself. We believe we have something that works, with utilization of minor league baseball parks and the sponsorships we've created."

Two of the FXFL's four franchises, the Brooklyn Bolts and Omaha Mammoths, drew decent-sized crowds to such stadiums. The Boston Brawlers didn't fare quite so well, and the Blacktips were a road-only team.

Woods also was satisfied with the media reach the league had through regional sports networks and ESPN3. There were 80 million households who get those regional channels, and ESPN3 is available in about 90 million households.

Most of the league's players were cut by NFL teams before the season, and a handful wound up on NFL rosters or practice squads even as the FXFL was playing its short season. That, after all, was the idea in the first place.

"At the end of the day, we are a developmental league," Woods says. "If some players needed current game film, they got it. There is real merit to having a developmental league."

So much so that Woods envisions a bigger league in 2015, with more affiliations with minor league baseball teams and stadia. He's targeting such cities as Memphis, Austin, Oklahoma City and somewhere in Florida. Woods also expects Brooklyn and Omaha to return.

"I want it to be a manageable expansion, ensure the product on the field will remain solid and something the fans will have an interest in," he says.

OUT OF THIN AIR: Miami Dolphins defensive lineman Jared Odrick prepared for Sunday's game at mile-high Denver with a hunting trip to Utah.

Odrick and a friend shot coyote and hiked last weekend in the mountains near Randolph, which is at 6,300 feet — higher than Denver.

"I've played in altitude before," Odrick said. "It can be different if you want it to be. It's just another thing to overcome."

Odrick's mini-vacation was possible because the Dolphins had last weekend off following a Thursday night win over the Bills.

CHAMP'S TAKE: Although the only football Champ Bailey plays now is fantasy, he still has a scout's eye on the game he played for 15 seasons. He has faith in his former team getting right back on the Super Bowl Express.

The Broncos (7-3) have lost two of their last three in large part because their makeshift offensive line can't keep Peyton Manning upright or jumpstart the ground game.

Bailey, who officially retired this week, starting the countdown to his likely Hall of Fame speech, said angst-ridden Broncos fans should relax.

"Well, I think up front, they're going to find something they're comfortable with. They have to. Obviously, they've made some changes. But they'll be good," Bailey said. "I know the defense looks better than what we had last year. So, that's really the key: Don't turn the ball over, and get turnovers. They do that, they win. Too much talent not to."

There's never a good time for a slump, but better now than later, Bailey said.

"It's happened at the right time, not in the playoffs," Bailey said. "This league, it's about as tight as it gets. I swear, six or seven weeks ago, you're talking about Seattle is the best thing you ever seen. Now, what do you think?"

New England was in trouble then, too.

"Exactly: 'What's wrong with Brady? They can't keep plugging guys in,'" Bailey said. "It's week to week. Can't get too high or too low — on anybody, I don't care who they are."

Therefore, Bailey still likes Denver's chances to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, warts and all.

"Very good chances," Bailey said. "There are a lot of teams with good chances, but if they're playing the best they can play, they can win it, easily."

PREPPING FOR SPEED: Tennessee defensive coordinator Ray Horton has never coached against Philadelphia with coach Chip Kelly's fast-paced offense. So he tried something a little different to help prep the Titans for visiting the Eagles on Sunday.

He went to the tape. No, not the coaches' version with all the breaks between plays edited out. He showed them a copy of the TV broadcast, complete with Troy Aikman, from the Eagles' 53-20 loss at Green Bay last week.

"So they get the tempo and how fast everything goes," Horton said. "I think if you haven't seen it, and I haven't seen it in person, I think our guys now have an idea of what it is because they've seen it actually like they were there just watching it on TV. They won't be surprised or shocked. I don't think they will be. I think we have a great game plan in how we're going to do it and what we do and we'll be ready to go."

Defensive coaches will watch a copy of the TV broadcast to pick up a quarterback's cadence. But with the Eagles, Horton didn't care about the words, simply the speed and tempo that offense runs so none of the Titans are caught off-guard by just how quickly Philadelphia moves.

"But you still have to experience how fast it is," Horton said.

ELI-TIKI TIFF: Eli Manning didn't like it a couple of years ago when former teammate Tiki Barber took a shot at him over his leadership abilities. And he didn't like it when Barber said in a recent radio interview that coach Tom Coughlin should be fired.

"That's very nice of him," Manning said. "It's good to hear from Ol' Tiki."

The Giants (3-7) have lost five straight games and are in danger of missing the playoffs for a third straight season.

Manning said he didn't hear all of Barber's comments but got the gist of what he was saying, noting everyone has the right to his opinion.

The 33-year-old Manning said the comment won't affect the players or the coaches.

"Well, I think it depends on kind of what your opinion of the player is," Manning said. "I think that can make a big difference in how you react to it."

Barber has fallen into disfavor with Giants fans for saying that Manning's leadership was somewhat comical. Barber later added that Coughlin's tough coaching style led to his decision to retire, which he announced in the middle of the 2006 season.

The Giants and Manning won Super Bowls after the 2007 and '11 seasons.


AP Pro Football Writers Barry Wilner, Teresa M. Walker and Arnie Stapleton, and Sports Writers Tom Canavan and Steven Wine contributed to this notebook.


AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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