Garret Dooley on First Year in the XFL, What's Ahead
Though the XFL officially announced the cancellation of the entire 2020 season on Friday, Garret Dooley already had made the day-long trek back home to Illinois earlier in the week.
Accompanied by his fiancee, who had actually flown out east last week, the former Wisconsin linebacker drove to the Land of Lincoln.
"We were in a car for almost 16 hours so it was a pretty, pretty long day, but I'm glad that we knocked it out all in one trip," Dooley told AllBadgers.com on Wednesday. "Now we can take our time and just relax, be home and obviously make sure that we're stocked up for what's coming.”
The new professional league decided to not finish its first year of play this week due to the growing COVID-19 pandemic and "most recent local and state regulations." Eight days earlier on the evening of March 12, it announced it would initially halt its 2020 regular season, the first public statement from the league stated that players would receive their base pay and benefits for the regular season.
Around the time the XFL announced the move last Thursday night, Dooley recalled hearing about the news from New York Guardians head coach Kevin Gilbride. A follow up meeting a day later on the morning of March 13 went into more details.
Dooley -- who finished the first five games of the year with two tackles, a forced fumble and a pass defended that went viral in Week 1 -- believes the league responded well.
"I think they did a good job of getting the information out to us," Dooley said. "I mean, they had only met for an hour or two, and we had found out that evening what was kind of going on and then we got all the details the next day.
"They've already come out and said that the season for 2021 is a go, so I know that the league was doing well, and that it was just on the rise. I know that everyone's really excited about it, and they think that it's a league that can stick. So I think that they did a good job of already announcing that they're gonna bring it back and keep it going.”
For his New York Guardians, they found themselves in a three-way tie for first place with the DC Defenders and St. Louis Battlehawks in the XFL East division. A two-game winning streak allowed Dooley and his teammates to improve their record to 3-2.
The linebacker believed the league was doing well. From a player's standpoint, he admitted it took some adjusting to the new rule changes. Though he called out that television viewership dropped during the season, something Sports Illustrated's John Wall Street documented earlier this month, he also thought there was a lot of interest and involvement.
“I know that they had already mentioned ticket sales before the season had even started had already surpassed the AAF," Dooley said. "Obviously, that was just going to continue to grow. It helps when you're doing successful, and that's kind of where ... we were hitting our stride. I think that we were kind of getting the New York fans going on that. I think it was doing well.
"There's a lot of really good players in the league, and I know that there's going to be a lot of guys that make it to the NFL for OTAs and training camp this year. Hopefully I'm one of them. If not, then there's a decent chance that I'll be back.”
With this unprecedented and unexpected time off ahead, he hopes to hit the training hard.
"I haven't necessarily had an offseason like I did going into this past camp with (the) Detroit (Lions in 2019), just because there was getting released by them," Dooley said. "Then I was just kind of maintaining my body and my physical fitness just in case I got a workout, I got picked up by another team, and then obviously going right into the XFL. So I've never had a legit two months or even just six weeks where I could just train hard and get into really good football shape and lifting shape.
"So I think once I give it probably about a week to settle, then I'll probably start hitting it kind of hard. Obviously, I need a little bit more help with what's going on because they've closed all the gyms in Illinois. That's definitely going to be a struggle for now, but I'm going to try to do as much as much stuff as I can at home running. Just try to do as much as I can until I can get back into the gym.”