There’s spring football this year in the form of the USFL — and there’s been some positives and negatives to this point.
Week 1 attendance was very low, a league where every game is played in Birmingham, Alabama. However, over 3 million viewers watched their inaugural game on Saturday (simulcast on FOX and NBC).
The reasons above aren’t why people are talking about the USFL, though. It’s because of a really odd video featuring former Michigan running back, De’Veon Smith.
The video features Pittsburgh Maulers head coach Kirby Wilson laying the law down — you better be okay with eating chicken salad or you’re out of the league.
“He crossed the line, so we had to deal with it,” Wilson said. “Any disrespect of football or members of staff, USFL, etc. will not be tolerated.”
The disrespect? Smith doesn’t like chicken salad and wanted some pizza.
Smith goes on to tell Wilson that he never cursed at anyone or disrespected anyone. Smith says he asked if there was another option besides chicken salad since he doesn’t eat it, that someone walked in with pizza, he asked for a slice, the person told Smith no and asked if that’s a problem, Smith said yes. According to Smith, that was the totality of the interaction.
The video shows Wilson not wanting to hear about Smith’s side of the story, his mind is already made up, ultimately cutting Smith and walking out of the room.
Maybe there’s more to the story, but it’s a bit embarrassing that the USFL aired this clip in an NFL Hard Knocks kind of way, when it just makes Wilson look like a coach who went overboard. The players are living in a bubble of sorts, staying at the same hotels in Birmingham for the duration of the season. If it’s the case that Smith was cut because he wasn’t given more than one option for food, that’s among the most ridiculous reasons you will ever hear when it comes to someone getting cut.
Smith was a standout at Michigan, rushing 2,161 yards and 22 rushing touchdowns during his career. Smith then was on the practice squads of the Miami Dolphins and Washington Commanders before having a productive year for the Orlando Apollos in the AAF and being the XFL rushing yards leader with the Tampa Bay Vipers in 2020.
This is Wilson’s first head coaching job after a long career in the NFL where he has been a running backs coach for many teams (Steelers, Washington, Raiders, Vikings, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Browns, Patriots). And this sure seems like the interaction of a first-time head coach who’s making a mistake.
Here’s to hoping Smith can land with a team or league that’ll let him have a slice of pizza.