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At the risk of sounding a little a lot like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, it’s time for some XFL football — again.

Twenty-two years after the original version debuted and three years after the rebooted edition shut down after five weeks, the XFL returns in 2023 under a new ownership group led by Dwayne Johnson and his longtime business partner (and ex-wife) Dany Garcia.

Johnson, of course, was one of former XFL owner Vince McMahon‘s biggest stars in WWE. But not to worry, folks. McMahon has no involvement whatsoever in this third endeavor.

Technically, this new XFL is a continuation of that second edition. But I’m guessing most see it as a fresh start.

And speaking of fresh starts, you’ll certainly recognize a few former NFL players in this latest edition of the XFL looking to revitalize their careers, some of whom were top draft picks, Pro Bowlers, or even All-Pro selections at the highest level football can offer.

In alphabetical order, here’s a quick look at the five players you’ll likely recognize most during this 2023 XFL season.

Vic Beasley, LB, Vegas Vipers

Once selected with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft out of Clemson by the Falcons, linebacker Vic Beasley was a Pro Bowler and a First-Team All-Pro selection in his second season, a campaign in which he recorded an NFL-best 15.5 sacks in helping Atlanta to a Super Bowl berth. In fact, he’s the only Falcon in the last decade to record double-digit sacks in a single season.

But after his production dwindled over the next few seasons, the Falcons chose to let him leave in free agency following the 2019 campaign. Beasley spent the 2020 NFL season with the Tennessee Titans and Las Vegas Raiders but has been out of the league the past two years.

He was the first selection of the Defensive Front Seven portion of the 2023 XFL Draft and will suit up for the Vegas Vipers.

Martavis Bryant, WR, Vegas Vipers

Joining Vic Beasley in Las Vegas is Martavis Bryant, who was taken by the Vipers with the fifth overall pick of the Skill Players portion of the XFL Draft.

Taken in the fourth round (No. 118 overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft, also out of Clemson, Bryant spent four years with the Pittsburgh Steelers. But due to missing the entire 2016 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, he only played three of them.

He was traded to the then-Oakland Raiders ahead of the 2018 season, which turned out to be his last NFL season. In 44 regular-season games (18 starts), Bryant caught 145 passes for 2,183 yards with 17 touchdowns, adding 21 receptions for 322 yards and three scores in four postseason outings.

Josh Gordon, WR, Seattle Sea Dragons

Easily the most high-profile name on this list, wide receiver Josh Gordon, who was a First-Team All-Pro with the Cleveland Browns in 2013 after catching 87 passes for a league-high 1,646 yards with nine touchdowns, will suit up in the XFL for the Seattle Sea Dragons.

Selected in the second round of the 2012 NFL Supplemental Draft by Cleveland, Gordon was infamously suspended on multiple occasions throughout his tumultuous career and missed both the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

In 77 regular-season games with the Browns, Patriots, Seahawks, Chiefs, and Titans, the Houston native caught 252 passes for 4,284 yards with 21 touchdowns.

Paxton Lynch, QB, Orlando Guardians

Paxton Lynch will be one of just two XFL quarterbacks to have started a game in the NFL, the other being Ben DiNucci.

Taken in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft (No. 26 overall) out of Memphis by the Broncos, Lynch appeared in five games for Denver over his first two seasons, starting four of them, completing 79 of 128 passes for 792 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions.

And that was the extent of his NFL career, at least on the field. He spent time with both the Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019 but never appeared in a regular-season game.

The San Antonio native was drafted into the USFL in 2022 and completed 54 of 83 passes for 550 yards with five touchdowns and four picks in limited action with the Michigan Panthers. Lynch will suit up for the Orlando Guardians in the XFL in 2023.

A.J. McCarron, QB, St. Louis Battlehawks

Lastly, we’ve got A.J. McCarron, who was a three-time national champion, a two-time All-SEC selection, and a one-time All-American at the University of Alabama but spent his NFL career as a backup quarterback.

In six NFL seasons with the Bengals, Raiders, and Texans, McCarron, the 164th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, appeared in 17 games, starting four of them, and completed 109 of 174 passes for 1,173 yards with six touchdowns against three interceptions.

Still just 32 years old, McCarron will suit up in the XFL for the St. Louis Battlehawks.


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