The Alliance of American Football kicks off, kind of, Saturday. Here's the lowdown on the new pro league

It has been only a few days since you last watched a football game — longer if you’re a Saints fan — but there’s no need to go through withdrawal symptoms.

From TV and movie producer Charlie Ebersol and Hall of Fame NFL executive Bill Polian comes a new pro league, the Alliance of American Football, an eight-team outfit making its debut this weekend.

You’ll be introduced to the Atlanta Legends, Birmingham Iron, Memphis Express and Orlando Apollos in the Eastern Conference. The Arizona Hotshots, Salt Lake Stallions, San Antonio Commanders and San Diego Fleet are in the Western Conference.

The Alliance’s inaugural season will run 12 weeks with a championship game April 27 at Las Vegas’ Sam Boyd Stadium on CBS.

But I can tell from the look on your face you have some questions about the AAF.

You’re darn right I do. For one thing, I’m confused. I thought the XFL was coming back.

It is. This isn’t it.

But you said Charlie Ebersol is behind this. That’s former NBC Sports boss Dick Ebersol’s son, and Dick developed the XFL with the WWE’s Vince McMahon 18 years ago, right?

Yeah, but this is a different league. The XFL is scheduled to return in 2020. The AAF is here now.

After Saturday’s AAF debut telecast on CBS, coach Mike Singletary’s Express play the Iron on cable’s CBS Sports Network with Ben Holden, Adam Archuleta and John Schriffen as announcers.

You know, I’ve been a Memphis Express fan my whole life. Anybody else of note involved in The Alliance besides Samurai Mike?

Other coaches include Steve Spurrier (Orlando), Mike Martz (San Diego), Dennis Erickson (Salt Lake) and Rick Neuheisel (Arizona).

League leaders include Troy Polamalu, Hines Ward, Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino. Dick Ebersol is on the board of directors.

Investors include the Chernin Group, which has stakes in Barstool Sports, The Athletic and The Action Network, among other ventures.

What about the players?

Not so well-known, though you might spot a few whose names you know at least vaguely.

Like who?

Well, Birmingham quarterback Scott Tolzien played at Fremd High School and Wisconsin en route to the NFL, where one of his postings included backing up the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers.

Is it going to be good football?

Who knows? But Charlie Ebersol, having learned a lesson from the original XFL, has stressed that he knows how important that is.

Will all of the games be on CBS or CBS Sports Network?

No. NFL Network has a slate of AAF games, beginning Sunday night with Salt Lake at Arizona.

Turner Sports’ B/R Live streaming site also will have games, while TNT will have one regular-season telecast and one playoff game. Subscription radio service SiriusXM also will carry games.

And it kicks off this weekend, you say?

Not exactly. The Alliance doesn’t have kickoffs. Teams get the ball on their 25 at the start of halves and after opponents score. There are no point-after kicks, either. Teams have to go for the two-point conversion.

There’s still some foot in this football, though, thanks to punts and field goals, just not in overtime.

Sudden-death overtime?

No. Each team gets the ball once in overtime, first-and-goal at the 10. The other team gets a series to tie the other team or win. A lot of league rules, like reducing the play clock from the NFL’s 40 seconds to 35, are meant to speed up play.

How speedy?

They want to trim the length of a typical NFL game by about a half-hour and get things wrapped up in about 2½ hours.

Cutting five seconds off the play clock and eliminating kickoffs does that?

There also are no TV timeouts.

Hallelujah!

Yeah, that’s pretty good. But you have to figure they’ll come up with different ways to get ads into the telecast.

The “no kickoff” thing takes onside kicks out of the mix, I guess.

Yes, but the AAF has what they call onside conversions.

If a team is behind by at least 17 points or the game is in the final five minutes, it can try to retain possession after a score by taking the ball at its 29-yard line for a fourth-and-12 play.

Pick up the first down and keep going. Fail and give the opposing team great field position.

Clever.

Wait till you hear about SkyJudge.

SkyWhat?

SkyJudge. In addition to replay reviews, one member of the officiating crew will be up in the press box and empowered to make the obvious calls the folks on the field miss.

Saints fans are going to want that in the NFL, like, a month ago.

No doubt they will, assuming they can be convinced to watch any kind of pro football ever again.

philrosenthal@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @phil_rosenthal

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