By R.L. Bynum
Three former Carolina players and a former UNC head coach are part of the new iteration of the United States Football League, which starts play this weekend with several rule changes.
Larry Fedora is the head coach for the New Orleans Breakers, and he’ll coach a player who played for him in Chapel Hill: running back T.J. Logan Jr. (top photo)
The Breakers’ first game is at 4 p.m. Sunday (USA Network) against the Philadelphia Stars and tight end Bug Howard.
Anthony Ratliff-Williams is a wide receiver for the Houston Gamblers, whose opener is at noon Sunday against the Michigan Panthers (NBC, Peacock).
For the inaugural season, all regular-season games for the eight-team league will be played in Birmingham, Ala., and the playoff games will be in Canton, Ohio. Each team plays 10 regular-season games and the season runs until July 3.
Logan was a fifth-round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2017 but has battled injuries during his professional career. He dislocated a wrist in preseason and didn’t play for them until 2018. On Sept. 2, 2019, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers claimed him off waivers. He played in 12 games that season before going on injured reserve with a fractured thumb. He didn’t play for the Super Bowl champion Bucs in 2020 after suffering a leg injury in training camp.
In 22 career NFL games, he has five carries for 12 yards, nine catches for 50 yards, 25 kickoff returns for 567 yards and 13 punt returns for 124 yards.
This is the fourth league for Howard, who hasn’t played in the NFL after spending time on the rosters of the Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars. He played for the Atlanta Legends in the Alliance of American Football in 2019 and the Alphas in The Spring League for its fall season in 2020.
Ratliff-Williams signed with the Raiders late in the 2019 season but was cut during 2020 training camp, then the Seattle Seahawks cut him during 2021 training camp.
Michigan, Philadelphia, the New Jersey Generals and the Pittsburgh Maulers make up the North Division. New Orleans, Houston, the Birmingham Stallions and the Tampa Bay Bucs are in the South Division.
The USFL has shaken up the rules, among them allowing two forward passes behind the line of scrimmage.
When a team scores a touchdown, it has three options: add an extra point with a 15-yard field goal, two points for a play from the 2-yard line that crosses the goal line and three points of a play from the 10-yard line that crosses the goal line.
A team trying to stage a comeback late will have two options after scoring a touchdown: A conventional onside kick or converting a fourth-and-12 play on its 33 yard line.
Kickoffs will be done from the 25-yard line. When The Spring League used that rule, 95% of kickoffs were returned.
If a game goes to overtime, each team gets three tries to score on a play from the 2-yard line, with two points awarded for each successful try. If there is a tie after three rounds, an additional round is added until a winner prevails.
A microchip in the ball will determine down and distance and whether a play produces a first down.
Tar Heels in USFL
Larry Fedora, New Orleans Breakers head coach, 59
Bug Howard, Philadelphia Stars tight end, 27
T.J. Logan Jr., New Orleans Breakers running back, 27
Anthony Ratliff-Williams, Houston Gamblers wide receiver, 24
Photo via @USFLBreakers