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Seven things to know about the XFL before opening weekend

The Tampa Bay Vipers will open the season on the road Sunday against the New York Guardians.
Receiver Stacy Coley and the Tampa Bay Vipers kick off the XFL season on Sunday at the New York Guardians. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

PLANT CITY — With Super Bowl 54 out of the way, sports fans’ focus can now turn to the football everyone really wants to know about — the long awaited XFL.

And what is the XFL, really?

Players and coaches insist it’s not much different from regular football, but the league has fancied it up with some interesting rules to help keep fans invested.

But what about all of the other stuff? We’ve got you covered for Week 1, which includes the Tampa Bay Vipers opening play at the New York Guardians at 2 p.m. Sunday.

How is the XFL experience different for fans?

XFL players will be mic’d up during the games, so viewers will get unfiltered reactions on what it’s really like out on the field when someone makes a big play ... or misses one. Additionally, players and coaches will be interviewed throughout the broadcast.

How much will players get paid?

Well, one thing is for sure. These players are getting paid a heck of a sight more than college athletes. But let’s not go there for now.

An NBC Pro Football Talk report revealed last fall that XFL players would average $55,000 per season, which only runs from February through April. Players drafted from October on became full-time employees (in technical terms) on Dec. 4. If they stay on a roster, they’ll keep their “jobs” through the end of April.

The NFL minimum salary is $495,000, but those are guaranteed contracts for more than a half year. If the opportunity arises for XFL players to pursue an NFL contract, they may accept those terms after the XFL Championship on April 25.

How does the NFL feel about the XFL?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said recently that the XFL should keep fans invested in the game of football. [STEVE LUCIANO | AP]

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was hesitant to comment on the XFL when the league was announced in 2018. At the time, Goodell said he hadn’t focused on the new league, steering the conversation, instead, to some of the NFL’s future goals like developing spring football.

But now, the commissioner has spoken out.

“I look at it as a positive because people are investing in football,” Goodell said on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures. “In fact, what I usually hear starting (after the Super Bowl) is, ‘I’m going to miss football for the next six months. What am I going to do?’ … That only creates greater opportunities and, frankly, more fans.”

How is this different from the first XFL?

Fans may remember the XFL’s first stint in 2001, which was also the year it ended. XFL 1.0 and the new version both include eight teams, but the league appears to have recognized its competition isn’t the NFL, nor is the NFL competing with the XFL. Instead, the XFL has somewhat accepted that it could be a farm system for the NFL.

How do you buy tickets?

If you’re looking for a weekend family outing, the XFL offers ticket options that won’t break the bank.

Vipers season tickets start at $20 per game in the lower bowl of Raymond James Stadium. Single-game tickets start as low as $24 (north and south end zones), while seats along the sidelines range from $48-$90. Corner spots go for $36. Club seating is also available at $96 or $108 per game. Group tickets — 10 people or more — can expect ticket prices to range from $20 to $70.

Tickets are available for purchase here.

How do you watch games?

Tampa Bay Vipers quarterback Aaron Murray warms up during practice at Plant City Stadium recently. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

The league has reached television deals with Fox Sports, ABC and ESPN, in addition to its own streaming service.

Vipers fans can watch the games on the following networks:

Week 1, Sunday at New York Guardians on FOX at 2 p.m.

Week 2, Feb. 16 at Seattle Dragons on FOX at 5 p.m.

Week 3, Feb. 22 vs. Houston Roughnecks at Raymond James on ABC at 2 p.m.

Week 4, March 1 vs. D.C. Defenders at Raymond James on ESPN2 at 7 p.m.

Week 5, March 8 at Los Angeles Wildcats on ESPN at 8 p.m.

Week 6, March 14 vs. St. Louis BattleHawks at Raymond James on FS2 at 5 p.m.

Week 7, March 21 vs. Dallas Renegades at Raymond James on ABC at 2 p.m.

Week 8, March 28 at D.C. Defenders on ABC at 2 p.m.

Week 9, April 5 at St. Louis BattleHawks on ESPN at 12 p.m.

Week 10, April 12 vs. New York Guardians at Raymond James on ABC/FS1 at 2 p.m.

Where can you buy fan gear?

Vipers merchandise is available online at the team’s store and Dick’s Sporting Goods. The team will have multiple locations set up throughout Raymond James Stadium on game days, including areas on the main concourse and in the East Club.

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