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Mason's Mailbag: A 'summer league' for the NFL?

How come the NFL doesn't have something like the NBA Summer League? #AskMase

-- @Lordjohn46 via Twitter

Injury risk and the past failure of a developmental league. With football being a collision sport, it's hard to envision even a short-season offseason league that sees teams field rosters that include high draft picks.

That said, I've written in this space about the need for some kind of developmental league, which has not existed since the World League/NFL Europe/NFL Europa closed up shop after its 2007 season. At its peak, that circuit provided an alternative method for developing players, most notably at quarterback. Over a stretch of five Super Bowls from January 2000 through February 2004, four games saw a starting quarterback who honed his skills in the developmental league: Super Bowls XXXIV and XXXVI with Kurt Warner of the then-St. Louis Rams, Super Bowl XXXVII with Tampa Bay's Brad Johnson and Super Bowl XXXVIII with Carolina's Jake Delhomme.

A key to making this work -- while also accounting for the injury risk -- would be to provide some benefit to the players other than exposure. That is something that a new collective-bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFLPA would have to resolve if a developmental league is to succeed. 

Another thing to consider is this: Is such a league necessary? The final week of the preseason features games that mostly have the same types of players participating in the NBA Summer League, although some teams will hold even their top rookies out of action if they have sealed a first-team spot. Last year, the teams in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game did not play their first-teamers, either. I would also expect more teams to mimic the strategy of the Los Angeles Rams from last year, who did not play their starters at all in the preseason.

If that trend continues, you will get your version of the NBA Summer League ... it will just happen right before the start of the regular season.

#AskMase since you've been going to Training Camps for years and years, what is the funniest thing you've ever seen in the field?

-- @mikebirty via Twitter

It's probably 9News photojournalist John Kuhrt running a wind sprint to a light pole and back after his cell phone went off while then-Head Coach Mike Shanahan was answering questions after a 2002 practice at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.

There was also the fight between David Kircus and Domonique Foxworth -- with Curome Cox involved -- during 2006 training camp. This was comical because the defensive backs taunted the erstwhile Subway staffer about his background as a "sandwich artist."

Then you had the "slip-and-slides" that Josh McDaniels set up in 2010, having rookies dive into the mud for footballs while water sprayed on them. This experience made for some memorable photos, but nothing more. He also had an ice-cream truck take the field to surprise the players during practice. A fat lot of good that did; the Broncos finished 4-12 that year.

What do you see as the biggest position battle to take place during training camp? Is there a sleeper? #AskMase

-- @jamieandconnie

It's probably the positions noted in Saturday's edition of 10 Camp Burning Questions -- kickoff and punt returner. Realistically, the Broncos' starting 22 on offense and defense -- plus key rotational players such as No. 3 wide receiver, nickel defensive back, dime defensive back, et. al. -- appears solid, barring injuries.

But the battle for returner will also have an impact on the depth among offensive skill-position players. Barring a wave of injuries at wide receiver, players like Brendan Langley, Juwann Winfree, Aaron Burbridge, Kelvin McKnight and Trinity Benson will have to earn their roster spots via special teams, whether as a returner or as a gunner.

Why hasn't Lyle Alzado ever been mentioned? I know he went downhill, but he played quite well when he was a Bronco.

-- Roy Macdonald

If you are referring to the Broncos 100, he made the list. There is no way you're putting together a collection of the top 100 Broncos without a two-time Pro Bowler. He was at his apex during the Broncos' 1977 run to Super Bowl XII, earning first-team All-Pro honors.

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