Over the course of the years, the NFL has seen dozens of other professional football leagues come and go. While it remains to be seen how the newly created Spring League will ultimately fare, it does have one advantage most of the other leagues had not: It will not directly compete with the NFL.
The Spring League has started its operations last week in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia and will play its first game on Saturday. Among the 97 players competing on the league’s four teams, are five former members of the New England Patriots:
QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson
WR Brandon Gibson
WR Jalen Saunders
TE Kellen Winslow Jr.
CB Justin Green
Two of the ex-Patriots participating in the Spring League actually appeared in a game for the team: In 2012, veteran tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. caught one pass for 12 yards in New England’s week three loss at Baltimore. Not even a week later, though, the then-29-year old was released.
The following year, cornerback Justin Green was signed as an undrafted rookie. While he spent the majority of his first year in the NFL on the Patriots’ practice squad, he did appear in two games. The Illinois product was traded to the Dallas Cowboys the following offseason before returning in December 2014. He was a member of New England’s practice squad for the rest of the season – including Super Bowl XLIX.
The other three did not play in a competitive game for the Patriots. McLeod Bethel-Thompson spent 10 days on the Patriots’ practice squad in 2014, while Jalen Saunders was part of the team’s 2015 training camp roster for five days. Brandon Gibson spent the entirety of the 2015 season on New England’s injured reserve list before leaving as an unrestricted free agent the following year.
Now, all five former Patriots are back on the field together, trying to find success in the newest professional football league.