- Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Discussions of the NFL adding a developmental league for the many young players, coaches, officials and executives who can't get their foot in the door have picked up steam recently.
Troy Vincent, the NFL's head of operations, first mentioned the idea of bringing back a proving grounds for the league to develop young talent in April. According to a report from The Associated Press, enthusiasm for such a project quickly gathered steam.
That excitement was quickly endorsed by St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher late last week.
"I’m absolutely, 100 percent in favor of something like that, yes," Fisher said.
It's no surprise that any coach would approve of the idea of adding a place for young players, coaches and others to gain valuable experience. As it stands, teams only have eight-man practice squads as a method for retaining young players they like and even that doesn't come with any guarantees. Other teams can sign players from practice squads at any time so long as they place them on their active 53-man rosters.
Theoretically, a team can invest multiple years in a practice squad player only to see another team poach him after the original team put in the work to bring him along.
A developmental league could offer a place not only where teams can safely stash their own prospects but with the added benefit of giving those players regular repetitions in practice and even some actual game experience.
While Fisher's opinion is undoubtedly shared by other coaches, his words are also of a little more value than many coaches because of his longstanding connections to the league as a member of the competition committee.
Asked whether he sees a developmental league coming to fruition, Fisher offered further explanation of its value.
"There’s been discussions over the last couple years," Fisher said. "I don’t know what direction it’s going, but I think we have a need for it. I think it would be beneficial from a young players’ standpoint. It would be beneficial to go outside if you have to make an outside roster move to get somebody that’s in shape that you can evaluate on film. In addition to that, it would be extremely beneficial for the officiating department, and coaching for that matter."
4dEric D. Williams