Allen Park -- A new professional football league will hold its first games on Saturday evening and the Detroit Lions will be watching with keen interest.
The Alliance of American Football (AAF), an eight-team league founded by producer Charlie Ebersol and Hall of Fame NFL executive Bill Polian, will debut on CBS in primetime. It will be the start of a 12-week season, which culminates with a championship matchup at the end of April that overlaps with the NFL draft.
The eight teams -- Arizona Hotshots, Atlanta Legends, Birmingham Iron, Memphis Express, Orlando Apollos, Salt Lake Stallions, San Antonio Commanders and San Diego Fleet -- will give hundreds of players an opportunity to showcase their talents and potentially open up a new pipeline to the NFL.
And the Lions will be scouting that talent, hopeful of unearthing a potential diamond in the rough.
"It’s really interesting for us from a personnel standpoint and our scouting staff," Lions general manager Bob Quinn said in January. "There’s actually a couple players that were on our practice squad, that are actually going to go down and play in that league, which they should — because those guys that we’ve added late in the year on the practice squad, they really missed a year of football. They came in for a couple weeks, practiced, did a good job for us, so we had some conversations with them about, ‘Hey, do you want to come back and sign with us, or do you want to go play?’ And those guys had a chance to go play in that league, which I think is great.
"We’re going to scout that league," Quinn said. "I think their training camps are coming up here in a couple weeks, down in San Antonio, I believe. So, we’re going to actually send some of our scouts down there. They’re open for us to come down and evaluate. We’ll get their film once they start playing their games in February and March, so we’re going to scout them, yeah, for sure."
More than a dozen former Lions practice squad and main roster players are employed by AAF teams, including defensive end Devin Taylor (Birmingham), linebacker Alex Barrett (San Diego) and safety Jerome Couplin (Orlando).
In addition to the AFL, a second professional league, the XFL, is scheduled to relaunch in 2020. That league, funded by WWE owner Vince McMahon and run by former NFL quarterback and sports executive Oliver Luck, will also launch with eight teams.
On Thursday, the XFL announced former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops will coach the league's Dallas franchise.
Here is the schedule of games for the opening weekend of the AAF:
Atlanta Legends at Orlando Apollos
Kickoff: 8 p.m., Spectrum Stadium, Orlando
TV: CBS (regional coverage)
San Diego Fleet at San Antonio Commanders
Kickoff: 8 p.m., Alamo Dome, San Antonio
TV: CBS (shown nationally except for Southeast)
Memphis Express at Birmingham Iron
Kickoff: 4 p.m., Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.
Salt Lake Stallions at Arizona Hotshots
Kickoff: 8 p.m., Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.
TV: NFL Network