Jerry Del Priore
Full tackle football with no helmets and no pads?
Yes, that’s what American 7s Football League (A7FL) is – a seven-on-seven full contact football association that plays sans helmets and hard, plastic pads on a 100-yard x 37-yard field that doesn’t utilize field goal posts.
Those are some of the differences between traditional American football and A7FL, which was established in 2014, and has 18 franchises across four states: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland (Baltimore Gators won the 2018 A7FL Title) and Washington D.C., with hopes for future expansion.
Additionally, on offense, the quarterback has four eligible targets with two down linemen for protection. Defensively, there are no blitz restrictions, allowing for added excitement as the signal caller scrambles for his life.
A7FL co-owner Sener Korkusuz, along with John Bronson, said the removal of helmets eliminates, for the most part, the instinct to lower your head upon player contact, which reduces the occurrences of head impact injuries such as concussions, but it doesn’t eradicate it altogether.
However, the high-octane action is still ever-present, separating it from less evasive version of the game, such as flag football, he noted.
“Just like in rugby, when the helmet is removed, you remove the instinct to tackle with your head,” Korkusuz explained. “It’s still a violent sport. You still have concussions. This isn’t flag football. It’s full tackle football; it the closest to pro football, with less risk.”
To further the safety factor, things such as kickoffs, snapping the pigskin and field goals have been scrapped, as many injuries occur during these plays, according to Korkusuz.
There’s still a throw off, however, to one player, with two would-be tacklers running down the field on special team’s coverage.
As player safety is always job one in the A7FL, players are required to wear the 2nd Skull Cap – a soft padded skull cap that comes with a thin layer of lightweight XRD®, an extreme impact protection material made from special urethane molecules that are soft at rest but can harden in a moment’s notice under sudden pressure. While it provides some protection to the skull, it doesn’t prevent concussions.
Additionally, players use Athlete Intelligence’s Vector Mouth Guard, a state-of-the-art mouthpiece that utilizes embedded microscopic technologies that accurately measure the impacts and accelerations a player’s brain experiences during play. The Vector Mouth may improve tackling ability, as coaches can metrically gauge the head’s impact upon player contact, thus creating teachable moments.
Furthermore, the A7FL is furnishing players from all walks of life with an opportunity to play and get noticed. The league is featured on three cable networks: DirecTV Channel 623, Verizon Fios Channel 597 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 1665. Plus, Facebook Watch and YouTube (YouTube.com/TheA7FL), with over 10 million online views in the 2018 season, per its website. And tickets aren’t more expensive than $5 a pop.
One of the A7FL’s success stories is Daryl Virgies, who played for New Jersey Bothers in Christ (BIC) in 2015.
Virgies, a Trenton, New Jersey, native, was signed as an undrafted free agent last year by the New York Giants and had a few workouts with other NFL teams in the past.
“Our athletes are blue-collar, working type of guys,” Korkusuz said. “Our number one goal is to provide these athletes with this platform. It’s been a dream come true. The amount of traction we’re getting has been amazing. Fans are tuning in by the millions online.”
As far as going pro, Korkusuz sees it happening sooner rather than later, and plans on paying them for their gridiron services. But he said the A7FL isn’t taking on the NFL, as its season goes from April to July.
“We’re not competing with the NFL. The NFL is king,” he said. “But I think in the next three to five years we’ll be at the professional level; closer to three years. Once we’re at the professional level, players will be compensated, and have a platform to showcase their talents.”
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