XFL Press Release: March 1, 2001 - New Rule Changes



Jesse Ventura and Hitmen Coach Rusty Tillman Continue War of Words
Butkus To Broadcast This Saturday

March 1, 2001

In a move intended to increase offensive production, the XFL has eliminated the “Bump and Run” rule effectively immediately. The new rule eliminates any contact between defensive players and offensive receivers outside the first five yards from the line of scrimmage.

The new rule will first be put in place as the New York/New Jersey Hitmen host the high powered Los Angeles Xtreme offense, a game which should also see Jesse Ventura and Hitmen Head Coach Rusty Tillman continue their war of words, Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

“By eliminating the bump and run rule and adopting the current rules for pass defenders used in professional football, we hope to stimulate offensive production,” said Basil V. DeVito, Jr., XFL President. “Entertaining and fast-paced football has been the XFL’s goal from the outset and this rule change is in keeping with that goal. It is our feeling that the bump and run rule has hindered the forward motion rule that was intended to give offenses greater flexibility.”

This week Dick Butkus, XFL director of football competition and Hall of Fame linebacker, will replace Jerry “The King” Lawler on NBC’s bonus coverage game, Birmingham at San Francisco. “The King” is gone and shall not return. A permanent replacement will be named next week.

Ventura will be joined by play-by-play announcer Jim “J.R.” Ross in an open-air broadcast position in the stands in Giants Stadium where they will be subject to the same chilling weather conditions as the players and fans. The ongoing verbal sparring between Tillman and Ventura that began during the XFL’s debut on Feb. 3 in Las Vegas could escalate Saturday.

“I have no problem with Rusty as a person,” Ventura said. “But I’ll continue to criticize him as a football coach as long as he coaches his team in such a gutless manner. It’s not personal, it’s football. What really amazes me is that Rusty is as much of a sore winner as he is a sore loser. His team had just won their first game and collected their first $100,000 bonus and he didn’t even want to celebrate or have fun.”

The debate started opening night when Ventura criticized Tillman for being too easy on his players at halftime with his team trailing 19-0. Tillman replied to Ventura’s criticism after the game, which the Hitman lost by that same 19-0 score: “I think Clark Gable once said in a movie – Jesse, frankly I don’t give a damn.”

The tension between the two heightened this past Saturday night when Ventura called the head coach of the then winless Hitmen, “Gutless Rusty,” when Tillman chose to settle for a first quarter field goal on fourth and goal from inside the one yard line. “I’d go for it,” Ventura said. “Come on, you want touchdowns not field goals. Look at that, it’s fourth down and a foot to go and they are going to kick a field goal.”

After Leo Araguz made the field goal to put the Hitmen up 3-0 early in the first quarter, sideline reporter Fred Roggin asked Tillman about Ventura’s “gutless” remark. Tillman replied: “I don’t have anything to say about Jesse Ventura. He wouldn’t know if a football was pumped or stuffed.” Ventura continued his criticism of Tillman throughout the rest of the game.

Ventura left the NBC announce position in the stands to go down to the field for a postgame interview with Tillman. After a terse answer, Tillman walked away while Ventura asked: “Ain’t you going to talk to me, you won?” and Tillman answered, “No, I don’t want to talk to you.” The exchange between the two ended when Tillman said: “Jesse, I got nothing to say to you.” Ventura then added, “I got him intimidated, there is no doubt about it. The guy couldn’t wait to get off the field.”

Ventura then found Hitmen GM Drew Pearson who warned Ventura about his head coach, “You’re lucky he didn’t take you down at midfield.” Ventura responded, “He could never take me down. He’s lucky I didn’t take him down.”

The Hitmen (1-3) defense will also be looking to “take down” the offensive attack of Xtreme QB Tommy Maddox and WR Jermaine Copeland. Copeland, who last year broke pro football’s 50-year old record for most receptions in a game (19, later broken by 49ers receiver Terrell Owens, 20), should now be even more dangerous without the bump and run. He currently leads the league with 28 receptions and was the XFL offensive player of the week in Week Two when he caught 17 passes for 190 yards and one TD in L.A.’s, 39-32 thrilling double-overtime win vs. Chicago on Feb. 10. The Hitmen, led by XFL sack leader (6) and defensive player of the week DE Israel Raybon, rank first in the XFL in total defense and first against the pass under the old bump and run rules. Last Saturday night, Hitmen QB Wally Richardson got his first start and his team received its first taste of the $100,000 winning team bonus under the XFL’s popular “paid to play, paid more to win” salary structure.

NBC’s bonus game coverage of the Birmingham Thunderbolts (2-2) visiting the San Francisco Demons (2-2) will be bolstered by Butkus’ special appearance joining play-by-play man Matt Vasgersian at Pacific Bell Park – “The Hell Hole.” The Demons lead the league in attendance, averaging 36,495 after two games. Demons backup QB and former University of California standout Pat Barnes, gets his first pro start in front of familiar Bay Area fans as Mike Pawlawski is out three weeks with a neck injury. The Bolts feature QB Casey Weldon, who leads the league in passing yards (893) and is second in accuracy (82/130, 63.1%) and playmaker WR Stepfret Williams, who leads the league in receiving yards (326) and is second in receptions (26). The former Dallas Cowboy also returned a punt 95 yards for a TD in Week Two.

The league, a joint venture between NBC and World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. features eight teams competing in a 10-week regular season and two-week playoff run which culminates on April 21 with the XFL Championship Game, “The Big Game at the End.” For extensive coverage of the XFL on the web, visit XFL.com.

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