The season stopped two games before the playoffs were supposed to begin. The members of the Atlanta Legends got one more paid night in a hotel, then had nowhere to stay and no transportation home. The three-year, non-guaranteed contracts would no longer be honored.
Elyria High and Ohio State alumni Tracy Sprinkle and Chase Farris were caught in the middle when the Alliance of American Football suspended operations at the beginning of the month.
But they’re not bitter.
“At the end of the day I was playing football, I was getting paid to do what I wanted to do,” Sprinkle said. “It was a huge blessing, I was very successful, I was the top defensive tackle in sacks. So I had a very good experience.”
The AAF filed for bankruptcy Wednesday, ceasing all operations. Despite what Sprinkle referred to as “bumps and bruises” in the operation of the league during its existence, Farris was glad to be a part of it.
“It was just a great opportunity for guys to get picked up and prove to themselves and to these other organizations that they are capable of playing good ball,” he said. “So it was a good experience, sad to see it go so soon, hopefully they can regroup and possibly come back and get it going again.”
The new league was attractive to players because it would give them a chance to get game film against quality competition and hopefully catch the eye of NFL scouts. In less than three weeks since they became available, approximately 50 AAF players have signed with NFL teams.
Sprinkle and Farris hope to join that list.
Sprinkle ranked tied for fourth in the league with five sacks. He had one each in five games.
“Exactly what I wanted to do in that league I did it,” he said. “I can’t complain. I wanted to go out there and express my pass-rush ability and express that I can still be stout in the run, and I felt like I did it.
“So it’s time to see how the table’s going to fall coming up soon here in the next few weeks, and hopefully I’ll be back in the National Football League.”
He’s working out in Pittsburgh, getting ready for the call he hopes comes.
“They should be reaching out to me soon. So I’m just playing the waiting game,” Sprinkle said.
Farris’ wait could be a little longer. He started all eight games at right guard despite injuring a knee in the seventh game. He’s doing limited workouts in Columbus, has a doctor’s appointment soon and hopes to resolve the issue.
Farris was on the Patriots practice squad when they won the Super Bowl after the 2016 season, but his Achilles tendon ruptured that offseason. He said that’s no longer an issue, and the stern competition in the AAF proved again he can play in the NFL.
“Oh, for sure,” he said.
Rumors of the AAF’s demise began almost as soon as the season started in February. They grew louder when the closing was imminent, and the players could sense trouble.
The Legends were on the field when the news finally broke.
“We got out of practice, we saw it on Twitter the same way everybody else saw it,” Sprinkle said. “We showed our coach, ‘You see this? What’s going on?’
“We were all in the hotel waiting to figure out the news. We figured out the same way everybody else did. It was kind of a bummer.”
The players’ health insurance ended with the league.
“Everything that we signed in our contract and were promised for three years was vanished in one day, so it was kind of like surreal when you think about it,” Sprinkle said. “But everything happens for a reason, my faith is strong, it’s always been like this in my career, I’m just determined to keep moving forward.”
Sprinkle and Farris have been cut by NFL teams, so they know the next day isn’t guaranteed at any level of professional football.
“Week to week you never know,” Farris said. “You could walk in on Wednesday and get cut and have to go home, pack all your stuff up and be out of there.
“It just becomes a part of the territory when it comes to football.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak on Twitter.
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