The USFL has released a statement saying they will be returning to more traditional footballs used for special teams specialists. Executive VP of Football Operations Daryl Johnston said in a video clip posted to the USFL’s official twitter handle that the league made this change after listening to feedback from its players. The change should be implemented effective immediately starting in week 2.
One of the biggest takeaways when it came to on field play for the USFL in its inaugural weekend was the inaccuracy of the placekickers. It was an inauspicious start for the placekickers, but there may be a significant reason behind it.
According to several reports and confirmations received, the size of the chips in the new USFL balls has caused problems among some players and in particular placekickers and quarterbacks based on the uneven weight distribution. By implementing new technology to help trace stats and pinpoint ball location with regards to first downs, it has apparently altered the performance of some players.
There are also reports suggesting that some players have threatened to quit over using the chip balls. However, there is apprehension among players to speak out on the irregularities for fear of having their contracts terminated due to potential violations of their contract. The USFL player contract states that individuals are forbidden from speaking out publicly on league issues.
Over the first three games, the placekickers went an abysmal 3 for 10 combined from field goal attempts. This lack of execution led to disapproval with implementing the new chipped balls.
Spreadsheet stats provided by @UnitedTakesFL
What was at first seen as poor quality control due to lack of special teams personnel (some have no ST coach) or an oversight on who was given opportunities may in fact be due to the new technology in the footballs. In the interest of maintaining quality control the league now faces a dilemma in when to use the chipped footballs and determine how they affect player performance.
One of the biggest draws on USFL social media in recent weeks was the advent of the new first down measurements and how the chipped balls factored into the revamped process. However, players’ qualms with the new balls can potentially hamper the league’s reliance on their new toys and may have to default to traditional measuring equipment.