Ben DiNucci, a former Dallas Cowboys backup, will likely start for the Seattle Sea Dragons of the XFL. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Ben DiNucci, a former Dallas Cowboys backup, will likely start for the Seattle Sea Dragons of the XFL. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

What to know about the Sea Dragons and the XFL

Play begins this weekend in the third incarnation of the professional football league.

  • By Scott Hanson The Seattle Times
  • Friday, February 17, 2023 4:00pm
  • SportsPro sports

By Scott Hanson / The Seattle Times

The Seattle Sea Dragons open the season Sunday at the D.C. Defenders in the latest version of the XFL.

You haven’t been following the Sea Dragons and the XFL? Well, you probably have questions. And we’ve got answers.

What is the XFL?

It’s an eight-team spring professional football league, with players either trying to get back to the NFL or get there for the first time.

The first incarnation of the XFL was in 2001 (Seattle did not have a team), and the league folded after one season. There was a lot of glitz and glamour, like you might expect from a league owned by WWE founder Vince McMahon, but the football wasn’t good.

The focus when the league returned in 2020, with Seattle included, was to improve the football. While that part seemed to go well enough, the pandemic hit, causing the league to be canceled at midseason, then being declared bankrupt.

A group that includes Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson purchased the league, and now it’s back for a third time.

Seattle is in the North Division with Vegas, D.C. and St. Louis and will play those teams twice, and the teams in the South Division once.

Where will the Sea Dragons play home games?

They will play at Lumen Field, as did the 2020 Seattle Dragons. Seattle’s home opener is Thursday, Feb. 23, against the St. Louis Battlehawks. Seattle drew 29,172 to its first game in 2020.

Season ticket prices start at $100 and single-game tickets start at $24.

The team will be based in Arlington, Texas, then travel to games, including to the five in Seattle.

­­­Who are the biggest names on the Sea Dragons?

Fans are probably more familiar with some of the coaches — head coach Jim Haslett and coordinators June Jones and Ron Zook — than they are with the players.

The biggest name player is receiver Josh Gordon, who was an All-Pro with the Cleveland Browns in 2013 and played five games for the Seahawks in 2019.

Some other players of note include:

QB Ben DiNucci: Drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the seventh round out of James Madison in 2020; started for the Cowboys in a Sunday night matchup that year against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Quarterback Steven Montez: Threw school-record 61 career touchdowns at Colorado (2016-19) and is second in school history with 10,479 all-purpose yards.

Offensive lineman Josh Seltzner: First-team All-American in 2021 with Wisconsin.

Defensive lineman Sama Paama: Four-star recruit signed to play with the Washington Huskies. After redshirting in 2019, the school announced the next summer that he was retiring from football.

Linebacker Jordan Evans: Played five years for the Cincinnati Bengals. Was fifth on the team in tackles in 2018 with 61.

Safety Antoine Brooks: Won a Super Bowl ring with the Los Angeles Rams last year.

Cornerback Linden Stephens: Played for the Seahawks in 2020.

How do the rules compare to the NFL?

For the most part, they are pretty similar, but there are some innovations. Among them:

A 35-second play clock instead of 40 seconds as in the NFL. The play clock was 25 seconds in the 2020 XFL.

In the fourth quarter, a team can maintain possession after scoring by converting a fourth-and-15 play from its 25-yard line (in addition to trying an onside kick).

There are no extra-point kicks. Teams can get extra points by running a play from the 2-yard line (one point), the 5 (two points) or the 10 (three points).

Instead of overtime, teams will have alternating attempts from the opponent’s 5-yard line. Conversions are worth two points. It will end when each team has three attempts or when a winner is decided.

A double forward pass is allowed as long as the second pass is thrown behind the line of scrimmage.

How good will the Sea Dragons be?

It’s impossible to know for sure when none of the teams has ever played, but the Sea Dragons are among the top picks of several prognosticators. Offensive coordinator June Jones was 5-0 as the head coach of the Houston Roughnecks in the 2020 XFL and he thinks his offensive talent with the Sea Dragons is better than it was in Houston. Quarterback Ben DiNucci has NFL experience, which is a plus, and he is excited to play in Jones’ run-and-shoot offense. Add in the decades of experience that Haslett and defensive coordinator Zook bring, and there seems to be a good reason to be bullish on the Sea Dragons’ chances.

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