During Friday's UFL Championship post-game interview on Versus Network, Florida Tuskers' coach Jim Haslett mentioned that he had been contacted by NFL teams. Most people took that to mean he had been contacted about returning to coach in the NFL.
"I was talking about being contacted about the players. Fanhouse wrote that and I don't know how they got it that way. I said that I, like a lot of our other coaches, had been contacted and I meant contacted about our players," Haslett said Sunday from his home in Clayton, Mo. "I haven't been contacted by anyone, personally. There are no jobs open right now anyway. There's still five weeks of football or whatever it is.
"I've had all kinds of people calling and texting me saying, 'Who'd you talk to?' "
Haslett was happy to be home after his nearly four months in Tuskerville.
But being home was only a partial elixir for rinsing the bad taste from his mouth after losing to the Las Vegas Locomotives on Friday in the UFL title game. The Tuskers entered the game with a 6-0 record and were looking forward to completing an unbeaten season.
"Like I said even before the game, if we didn't win that game then this could not be considered a successful season," Haslett said. "I still thought we were clearly the better football team. Even with a minus-3 turnover ratio and all of the injuries, we still should have won that football game in overtime."
But a Brooks Bollinger interception, in what was an uncharacteristically turnover-plagued game for Bollinger, and the Tuskers cost themselves the initial possession of the overtime. From there all the Locos had to do was send ex- Florida State kicker Graham Gano onto the field to kick the game-winner 20-17.
Haslett even joked after the game that the replay official in the booth had to be intoxicated with the replay calls that were being made.
"I was just joking around though," Haskett said, "But man, you had to wonder."
Now his players will beginning seeking out NFL contracts to see just how beneficial this initial season of the United Football League was for prolonging their football careers. Several Tuskers players figure to fill NFL roster vacancies right away. Kicker Matt Bryant had a tryout with the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday.
The player who might be most contacted is linebacker Odell Thurman, the 2001 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year runner-up with the Cincinnati Bengals. Thurman is a player many Florida Gators' fan will remember from when he wreaked havoc with Gators' offenses as a member of the Georgia Bulldogs in the late 90s.
Thurman was suspended from the league on two different occasions for a number of issues, but Haslett said he has done what has been asked of him toward his NFL reinstatement.
"The way I understand it is that he just needs to submit some paperwork this week and it sounds like he will be let back into the league," Haslett said.
Thurman and MLB Tim McGarigle led the Tuskers in tackles this season and both players left the championship game early with injuries Friday.
"I've heard some are interested in me, but I'm working on getting re-instated," Thurman said after Friday's game. "I'm hoping to get picked up."
Others who will likely draw attention are QB Brooks Bollinger and WR Taye Biddle. The Tuskers led the league in passing and Bollinger and Biddle were the main reason. Bollinger threw for just more that 1,800 yards and 16 touchdowns and had an impressive completion percentage of 63.8. (143-of-224). Biddle had 30 catches for 525 yards and 2 TDs.
WR Marcus Maxwell was second in the league in receiving with 325 yards and a UFL-leading four TDs. RBs Tatum Bell (325 yards) and Michael Pittman (232 rushing yards and 20 receptions for 215 yards) also had productive seasons and will draw some attention, as will offensive linemen Rob Petitti and Anthony Davis, Charles Spencer and P.J. Alexander just to name a few. Fullback Andrew Pinnock a former blocking back for LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego, has drawn rave reviews, as well.
The defense is full of players who will likely get looks. Along with Thurman and McGarigle, there are defensive backs Willie Andrews and Darius Vinnett, Fahkir Brown and Ricky Manning Jr., defensive tackle Claude Wroten, linebacker Patrick Chukwurah and defensive ends Josh Cooper and Darrion Scott.
Also, kicker Matt Bryant, formerly of the Tampa Bay Bucs, had a tryout with the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday.
"I get to take my son Chase to a baseball camp at Clemson next week and then my daughter will be home for the break and I'm just looking forward to having a chance to be around my family."
As for next season, the first combine isn't far around the corner. It will be held in March and likely in Orlando, just before the NFL Draft. For now, Haslett's mindset is that he's returning for his second year of coaching next year.
"Well, it's the job that I have, so yes," he said. "Hopefully we get in a situation where we get inside the city a little better with some marketing and ticket sales and developing a fan base. That's really what I see as the next step for the league.
"If the XFL can draw 20,000 people a game, why can't this league? It has better players."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times