XFL 2020: Coronavirus forces start-up league to suspend play, but players can sign with NFL teams before FA

The XFL has suspended play immediately -- effectively ending the 2020 season. The news comes towards the end of a hectic day -- and not just for sports, but for the entire globe. According to a statement from the league, all players will be paid their base pay and benefits through the regular season. Meanwhile, all XFL ticket holders will be issued refunds or credit towards future games. The league does plan to come back to play a full season in 2021 and beyond. 

The league has also informed its players they can sign with NFL teams (or any other league) once their exit physicals are complete, which are scheduled for Friday (per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network). That will give players like Houston Roughnecks wide receiver Cam Phillips and quarterback P.J. Walker a chance to sign with a NFL team before free agency begins. NFL free agency is scheduled to begin on March 18 with the legal tampering period set to start Monday. 

Walker led the XFL in passing yards (1,338) and touchdowns (15) while Phillips had 31 catches for 455 yards and nine touchdowns in five games (all led the league). Another player that could find a NFL home is Los Angeles Wildcats quarterback Josh Johnson, who has completed 55.2 percent of his passes for eight touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 33 career NFL games for 13 teams. Johnson led the XFL in passer rating (106.3) and threw for 1,076 yards and 11 touchdowns. 

A memo sent to players Thursday evening said that "all players who who receive a written request to negotiate, and/or sign, a contract with any professional team will be released from their contracts upon executing an XFL notice of termination."  

There had been radio silence from the XFL all day Thursday amid sweeping cancellations and postponements in the sports world. The NCAA canceled its men's and women's basketball tournaments. Meanwhile, the NHL has suspended its season and the MLB has halted spring training. The NBA suspended its regular season indefinitely on Wednesday evening. 

Even before Thursday's announcement, at least one XFL team was expected to adjust to mounting concerns over COVID-19. The Seattle Dragons were originally scheduled to host the Los Angeles Wildcats on Sunday, March 15, without fans in attendance. Washington Governor Jay Inslee called for a ban this week of gatherings of more than 250 people. Washington state had the first known U.S. coronavirus case and has since had the highest number of confirmed cases and deaths in the country.   

As of Thursday afternoon, multiple sources told CBS Sports that they were continuing with their day, business as usual. With the latest announcement, however, those efforts have wisely halted for the time being. 

CBS Sports Writer

Ben Kercheval joined CBS Sports in 2016 and has been covering college football since 2010. Before CBS, Ben worked at Bleacher Report, UPROXX Sports and NBC Sports. As a long-suffering North Texas graduate,... Full Bio

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