How Sandbox Football Works

You're going to love this game.

In Sandbox Football, you are the general manager and coach of your own team. You will build a full roster of 53 NFL players through the draft and free agency. You will then develop depth charts and game plans for them, and then compete against other players in your 24-team league over the course of a season. You will battle injuries, retirements, free agent defections, and your opponents as you seek year over year to build a dynasty against other smart owners.

Each week, you will see a play by play readout of your game, and you will see how your players performed. You will tweak your lineup, adjust your game plan, sigh at your injuries, and then buckle your chin strap the next Sunday. Take notes, because you'll be seeking to upgrade in the offseason!

The heart of Sandbox Football is an incredible play by play simulation model designed and developed by a PhD engineering researcher and a former military simulation modeler, packaged in an easy to use game system. While player performance is based on NFL performance, this is not fantasy football. It is alternate reality football. Your entire roster matters, from your starting quarterback to your third guard, and the performance of each player affects others. Got a superstar wide receiver? You'd better have a good quarterback to throw to him. Got a great set of offensive linemen? Your running back is going to have more room to run.

Another unique feature of Sandbox Football is the timing. The game goes year round, but the season is played mostly in the NFL offseason. It will enhance your NFL viewing experience without interfering with it.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up and begin your championship run today!

League Calendar

June-Trading Period Opens

July-Rookie Draft

July-Free Agent Re-Signing Period

August to December-Unlimited Free Agency Period

January-Cut down to 53-Man Roster

January-Limited Free Agency Period Opens

January-Final Rosters Due

February-Trading Period Ends

February-Sandbox Season Begins, 1 Game Per Week

June-Sandbox Bowl For The Championship!

New Startup leagues may run on a slightly different schedule for their first season.

Getting Started

Signing Up

When you sign up for Sandbox Football, you'll go one of two routes (or maybe both): you'll either sign up for a new franchise or you'll sign up to take over an existing franchise. It's faster, easier, and cheaper to take over an existing franchise, but with a new franchise you can build the core of your team.

Go here for pricing information: [Sign Up Web Link] Go to "Signup Page" later in this document for language.

Naming Your Team

If you are acquiring an existing team, it will already have a name and a city. If you are starting a new team from scratch, you will be given a database of place names and team names as you register.

Select your team name carefully because you will never be able to change it again. You will be given a list of every major American city to choose from, along with a list of over 2,000 potential team names to choose from.

Whether you start a new team or acquire an existing team, you might wonder why you can't change your name down the road. There are three reasons for this. First, we would like to keep the league history consistent. Long after we're all dead, our silver-suited hairless descendants will be playing Sandbox Football, and we want them to see the illustrious history of their team without having to look up a hundred different name changes.

The second reason is that we assign teams to divisions based on geography. If your team is in Alaska, you're probably going to be in a Western or Northern Division, and we don't want to lose that consistency.

And the third reason is the most important. A lot of people pick really terrible team names if left to their own devices. It may be cute now to name your team The Chicago Cutlery Set or the Oregon Obamacares, but it won't be so cute twenty years from now. Just ask the owner of the Laredo Lewinskys or the owner of the Minneapolis Milli Vanillis. Sandbox teams have lasting power, so Sandbox names need lasting power.

Taking Over an Existing Team

If you are taking over an existing team, you will be dropped into the League Schedule wherever that league currently stands. Hit the ground running and you'll be fine.

Stocking A New Team (Startup Leagues Only)

If you are taking over an existing team, you will have a current 53-man roster to start with and you don't need to read this. You may instead use the time to learn the violin or something.

If you are participating in a new league, you will build your team via three phases.

1.First, you will be assigned a core of 33 core players. These are randomly assigned by the computer and for the most part they'll be mid-tier players, guys are who contributors to their NFL teams but not stars. There may be a few stars or busts in the mix, but for the most part these will be solid mid-tier players. At this point you can make trades with other teams in the league, which could include players or "Startup Draft Picks" (see below). The trade process is described here: (Insert link for trading rules.)
2.Next, you will participate in a Startup Draft with the other 23 teams in your league. At this point, all NFL players will be available as long as they haven't already been assigned. This will include many of the league's biggest stars so you can build a team to your tastes.
3. Following the draft, you will have a free agency period where you can compete with other teams to sign any remaining free agents that you value. You will have a 53-man roster limit at this point, so you will need to drop a player any time you pick up a free agent.

The process for maintaining your roster at 53 players will be as follows:

1.After you sign up, you can check your initial roster by clicking on your team name in the menu bar, and then scrolling down to "Manage Roster". This will provide information on the initial veteran core players you have and their positions. At this point, none of them will have contracts assigned to them. You'll do that later.
2.We strongly recommend that you go to the "Account Management" menu, select "Change E-Mail Notifications" and be sure that the "Notify me about important game events" box is checked. Otherwise, you will not receive notifications and will need to check the game frequently.
3.Once the league fills up with 24 players, you will receive a notification that the "Veteran Draft" is about to begin. Go to the "Drafts" menu, and select "Initial Veteran Draft" to participate in the draft process. The initial draft will consist of 20 rounds, and your draft position will be randomly selected.
a.Important notes about the initial veteran draft: all of the same rules apply as those of the rookie draft. We strongly encourage you to read those here: (Insert link to rookie draft rules).
4.Upon completion of the initial veteran draft, a limited free agency period will begin. At this point, you can bid on free agents according to the rules of free agency shown here: (Insert link to free agency rules.) However, a 53-man roster limit applies, so you will have to drop a player for every player you acquire in free agency.
5.Depending on the time of year that your league starts, you may also participate in an NFL rookie draft. The process for that draft is shown here: (Insert link to rookie draft rules).
6.You will then sign your players to contracts.
7.At this point, your team will be up and running, and you will proceed to building your depth charts and game plans to prepare for Opening Day. Your dynasty has begun.

Managing Multiple Teams

Managing multiple teams is allowed, as long as they aren't in the same league. In fact, we encourage it, because it makes the occasional losing season or long-term rebuild more tolerable if you have other teams who are doing the Godzilla on Tokyo thing.

If you have multiple teams, you can easily switch between them by selecting the "Account Management" menu and switching teams. To use this tool, you must use the same user name and password to register each team. Otherwise, you'll have to log in and out of each user name.

How To Manual

Acquiring Talent

Rookie Draft

What it is: Your opportunity to select rookie players and add them to your team.

When you can do it: The rookie draft occurs in July.

Where it is: Go to the Drafts menu and select "Rookie Draft". After the draft, your rookies can sign contracts by going to your team name on the menu and selecting "Manage Roster".

Each July, Sandbox has a rookie draft. This functions just like the NFL draft does for the most part, though without the ramblings of Mel Kiper and Mike Mayock. The rookie draft begins in July, and is "turned off" and inaccessible prior to that point.

The draft consists of seven rounds. Since there are 24 teams in a Sandbox league, this means that a total of 168 players will get drafted. Since the NFL draft consists of over 220 players in most years, the remainder will become available during either the Unlimited Free Agency process or the Limited Free Agency process. Players available are ONLY those who were drafted in the NFL. Undrafted rookies become available in the limited free agency phase or the unlimited free agency phase.

The order of the draft is based on the previous year's records.

To participate in the draft, click on "Drafts" in the menu bar, and select "Rookie Draft". You'll see three columns of players, as follows:

The leftmost column contains players who are eligible for the draft, along with their position and the order in which they were selected in the NFL draft. You can sort these by clicking on the various headers. The player names are clickable, but since they have no NFL statistics yet the links won't take you anywhere. (The links are because we're prepping them to be linked to statistics once they become available.)

If you see players that you're interested in drafting, you can click the "Move to Draft Board" arrow and the player will move to your draft board, which is the middle column.

The draft board is an important feature, because it does two things. First, it helps you organize and track the players you're interested in drafting. But more importantly, if you do not manually draft a player in your allotted time limit once your team's selection is due, the system will automatically draft the player at the top of your draft board. More on that in a moment.

Once a player is moved to the draft board, you can click and drag that player up and down the board as long as the board is not locked (the little checkbox above the draft board). You should lock the draft board any time you're not making edits, as a courtesy to other players.

The right most columns serve as the draft order and as the record of players that have been drafted. You can look in this column to see who's been drafted and whose picks are coming up. You can also click on the headers to sort by team, player name, and pick number.

When your team's turn arises, the following procedure is used to draft a player.

If you have the draft board locked, the top player on your board will be taken. This is the most efficient approach and we encourage you to have your board ready and locked before your pick arrives. If you don't have players on your draft board, then the top highest-drafted remaining player will be assigned to you.

If you do not have the draft board locked, the following process takes place. First, you may manually draft a player by selecting the "draft" button. You must move the player off of your draft board to do this, placing him back into the larger pool in the leftmost columns. If your allotted time expires without making a manual pick, the top player on your draft board will be chosen even if the draft board is not locked. If you don't have players on your draft board, then the top highest-drafted remaining player will be assigned to you.

If you turn your e-mail notifications on, you will receive an e-mail notifying you when your team is "on the board" to draft.

Video 1: Rookies: Drafting Them and Signing Them To Contracts

Free Agency (Limited and Unlimited)

What it is: Your ability to sign unattached players to contracts, and your losses when players' contracts expire and they test the open market.

When you can do it: Unlimited free agency occurs in a weekly cycle through the Sandbox offseason from August to December. Limited free agency occurs on a one-time basis in January, before the season starts.

Where it is: Go to the Drafts menu and select "Free Agent Auction".

There are several elements to free agency. We will discuss how you lose players to free agency, how to retain free agents on your own roster, and how to acquire new free agents. Note that free agency runs from July to January only, which is the Sandbox offseason. You cannot acquire free agents during the Sandbox season.

Free Agency functions are shown by selecting the Drafts section of the menu bar and choosing "Free Agent Auction".

Losing Players To Free Agency

If you click on your team name in the Menus and the select "Manage Roster", you will see the remaining years on each player's contract. When a player has zero years left on his contract, it means that he's about to enter the free agent market.

Retaining Free Agents on Your Roster

Each year, a player's remaining contract years will count down one year toward zero. Once a player reaches zero years on his contract, he will enter the free agent market and other teams can bid for his services. However, you have two options for retaining your own free agents.

As a first option, you can retain up to two free agent per year by giving them a contract of five or more years during the Free Agent Re-Signing Period. If you re-sign a free agent, then he reverts back onto your roster, even if he hates you and his agent has called you names in the media.

If you elect to not re-sign a free agent, then he will head into free agency and teams may bid for his services. When a team wins the bidding war, you will receive notice that the player is about to leave. However, now that you and he both know his market value, you can retain his services by "matching"-offering a slightly better contract than the winning bid. If you have e-mail notifications turned on, you will receive a notice about this, and you will also receive a notice when you enter the free agency marketplace to bid on players. You will be offered an opportunity for 24 hours to re-sign the free agent at a price that gives him a one-year longer contract than the winning bidder has offered him. You will match or decline to match as you enter the free-agent marketplace. If you decline to match, or if you do not agree to match within 24 hours, the player will leave your team and report to the winning bidder. His agent will likely call you names in the media.

Note that free agents will remain on your roster until they are signed away to another team. If no one signs them, they will be removed from your roster when the 53-man roster is enforced.

In the "Manage Roster" area of your team, you have the option to release any player at any time. However, it is important to NOT release players who are heading into free agency unless you're sure that you do not wish to match any bids. If you release a player, you lose the ability to re-sign him or match another team's bid and keep him.

Acquiring New Free Agents

There are two free agency periods-unlimited free agency and limited free agency. The unlimited free agency period runs from August through December, and includes all NFL players who appear on an opening-day roster in the NFL that season. Every week, players from one or two randomly selected NFL teams will be added to the free agency pool, so new talent will arrive for your consideration every week. During unlimited free agency, roster sizes are limited to 80 players.

After the unlimited free agency period ends, teams will cut down to 53 players. We then enter the limited free agency period. It functions identically to the unlimited free agency process, with two exceptions. First, the 53-man limit is enforced instead of the 80-man limit, so teams will be cutting players who will enter the limited free agency pool. Second, players who were not on an opening day roster enter the pool. For the most part, the limited agency period will be a chance to fill gaps in your rosters, perhaps capture some good prospects who were waived by other teams, and occasionally capture a few jewels who were signed by NFL teams mid-season.

The process for acquiring free agents is simple but competitive. If you go to the Drafts menu and select "Free Agent Auction", you will see three tables. (Scroll down to see the second and third tables.)

The first table includes free agents who are currently available for bidding. You can click the headers and sort those players by name, position, NFL team, current Sandbox owner (if any), current high bidder (if any), current high bid (if any), the time remaining before that player signs a contract with the high bidder, and boxes for you to make a bid if you wish to do so. Bids are made using available Salary Points, which are shown for you convenience in the upper left corner of the screen.

Recall that if there's a current Sandbox owner, that owner will have the right to beat the high bid if a player agrees to a contract.

Once a Sandbox team submits a bid on a player, a timer starts. If no other team submits a bid within three days (72 hours), that player opts to accept the high bid and join that team. Any current owner will have a chance to match at that point for a 24-hour window.

While the three-day countdown is underway, other teams may enter a bid that is at least one Salary Point higher than the current bid. Any team a higher bid is submitted, the three-day countdown starts over again. The process continues until the high bid is not beaten for three days, or until the free agency period ends.

Once you win a bid for a player, his contract length is automatically calculated based on the contract amount the position (tier) of the player. Higher contract amounts produce longer contracts.

If you scroll down from the first table, a second and third table appear. The second is a list of free agents who have been signed, along with their contract amounts and new teams. The third is a list of free agents who are not yet available for bidding during the unlimited free agency period. This table shows the week that they will become available. The third table will be empty during the limited free-agency period since all remaining players will be available.

Video 2: Free Agents-Losing Them, Retaining Them, Bidding On Them, and Signing Them

Proposing Trades

What it is: Your ability to offer trades of players and/or draft picks to other teams. (Tip: do not attempt to make trades with Bill Belichick if he happens to be in your league.)

When you can do it: Trades can be offered in the Sandbox offseason, from June through February. There are no trades during the Sandbox season.

Where it is: In the Trades menu, select "Propose Trade".

If you would like to propose a trade, it's a simple process.

Go to the Trades menu, and select "Propose Trade". This will bring you to the trade proposal dashboard.

The general instructions for proposing a trade are that you will select a team, select a player or draft pick that the team will give using a combination of the pulldown menu and radio buttons, and then select a team to receive it. You than select "Add to Transaction", and you will see that element of the transaction appear at the top of the screen.

Since trades require two parties to give and receive, you then repeat the process with other elements of the transaction. For example, your first step might be:

Canton Bulldogs trade Jim Thorpe to Chicago Bears (Click to Add Transaction)

You then repeat the process the other way:

Chicago Bears trade Bronko Nagurski to Canton Bulldogs.

You can add as many elements to the transaction as you wish, and include as many teams as you wish. Three-way trades are possible, two-for-one player trades are possible, combinations of players and draft picks are possible you name it.

Once you have the entire transaction listed at the top of the screen, you do two things. You click "Propose Trade" and then you click the box that says "Approve Trade".

Your trade offer will then be delivered to the other teams involved in the trade that you're proposing. They can accept or reject the trade using the process below.

Your offer will be active for up to 72 hours, or until the other owner(s) accept or reject the trade. Any trade that is still "on the table" will be counted in the "Pending Trades" area of your Message Notifications in the upper right corner of your screen, and you can also view them by selecting the Trades Menu and clicking on Pending Trades. In that menu, you can unclick the "Approve Trade" option if you're having second thoughts, but ONLY if the other owner(s) haven't already accepted the trade.

All owners involved in the trade must select the "Approve Trade" box in order for it to take place. Otherwise, it silently disappears into the mist of the Sandbox league archives.

As a reminder, it's a good idea to look at contract status when proposing a trade. Remember that all contracts are paid up front, so if you trade away a player who has seven years left on his contract, he's free for the other owner for seven years. Likewise, if you trade a player who has 1 year left on his contract, he's going to leave for free agency in a year unless the other owner takes steps to retain him by offering a long-term contract or matching any offers in free agency. (See the Free Agency section for details.) Note that a player with zero years left on his contract will leave for free agency immediately, but there's still some value there if the new owner wants to give him a long-term contract or have the opportunity to match the highest free agent bid. Each player's contract status is shown on the rosters when you make a trade offer, so it's pretty easy to analyze. They're also shown in the "League Roster" menu if you select your team name on the menu bar.

If you wish to solicit offers for trades, you can offer players for consideration in the "Trade Block" section, which can be accessed by selecting "Trades" in the menu and then selecting "The Trade Block".

Accepting or Rejecting Trades

What it is: Your ability to view offers from other teams and either accept them or reject them. (Tip: do not accept any trade offers from Bill Belichick if he happens to be in your league.)

When you can do it: Trades can be offered in the Sandbox offseason, from June through February. There are no trades during the Sandbox season.

Where it is: In the Trades menu, select "Pending Trades".

If you receive a trade offer, you will find out one of two ways. If your e-mail notifications are turned on, you will receive an e-mail notice. Otherwise, watch for your message notifications in the upper right-hand corner of the screen for "Pending Trades".

If you see a "Pending Trade" notification, you can go to the Trades menu and select "Pending Trades" to view the offer. At that point, it's simple. You select either "Accept Trade" or "Reject Trade". If you reject the trade, nothing happens other than perhaps some other owner crying into their beer. If you accept the trade, it happens immediately. All of the players pack their bags and move, and all of the draft picks immediately shift owners. It's very exciting.

If you wish to solicit offers for trades, you can offer players for consideration in the "Trade Block" section, which can be accessed by selecting "Trades" in the menu and then selecting "The Trade Block".

Video 3: Trades-Proposing and Responding to Trades

Retaining Talent

Salary Points

What it is: The currency that you use to bid on free agents and to sign contracts.

When you can do it: You use salary points during the unlimited free agency phase from August through December, during the limited free agency phase occurring in January, and signing rookies after the rookie draft in July.

Where it is: To review existing contracts and sign new contracts, go to your team name and select, "Manage Roster".

The key to signing free agents and rookies, and keeping veterans on your team, is their contracts. Contracts are funded by Salary Points.

If you click on your team name in the menu, you can go to "Manage Roster" and you will see your available salary points in the upper left-hand corner. For convenience your balance is also shown on the Free Agency Bidding page, which will be discussed later.

If you select your team name on the menu bar and then select "Standings", you can actually see the salary points of every team in your league. There are no secrets in Sandbox.

Getting Salary Points

Every year, you will get 450 salary points to use on free agents, rookies, and retaining veterans with expiring contracts.

If you're starting up a team, you will get a one-time infusion of 1,200 salary points since you have to bring all 53 players under contract. But after that, it's 450 new points per year.

Salary points can not be acquired any other way. You cannot acquire salary points via trades. Also, if you release or trade a player before his contract expires, you do not recover any of the salary points you spent on his contract. However, if you trade for a player who is under contract, his contract comes with him at no cost to you.

Spending Salary Points

You will spend salary points in one of four ways.

First, you will use points to sign rookies to contracts. Go here to learn more about contracts: (Insert link to Contracts Writeup.)
Second, you will spend salary points to sign free agents. Go here to learn more about free agency: (Insert link to Free Agency rules.)
Third, you can retain up to two veterans per year who have expiring contracts, as long as you offer them a contract of 5 years or more.. See the Free Agency rules for more information.
Fourth, if one of your veterans' contracts expires and you don't offer a retention contract above, you can use your salary points to match another team's free agency offer as one last chance to keep the player. See the Free Agency rules for more information.

If you're starting up a new team in a new league, you will also use salary points to sign your veterans to contracts as a one-time event.

Salary points can not be spent any other way. You cannot use salary points in trades.

Contracts

What it is: Your opportunity after you acquire them to lock players onto your team for a specific period of time. This is done automatically for free agents you acquire and for departing free agents if you match their bids, depending on the price you pay for them. You define contract lengths for rookies, and you define contract lengths for up to two free agents per year if you wish to sign them to long-term contracts. See the free agency rules for more information about free agency.

When you can do it: During the unlimited free agency phase from August through December, or during the limited free agency phase occurring in January.

Where it is: To review and sign contracts, go to your team name and select, "Manage Roster".

Any player on your team must have a contract. Sandbox Football uses a simple but realistic contract system that links pay to contract length. In real life, the bigger contracts also tend to be longer contracts, so we made it simple. You only have to worry about contract amounts, and the lengths are calculated automatically.

You can review your players' contracts by selecting your team name on the menu bar and then selecting "Manage Roster". In the "Manage Roster" page, you will also sign your rookies to contracts and you can sign up to two veterans per year to long-term contracts if their contracts have expired. (Any players not receiving long-term extensions will go to free agency.)

There are six key things to remember about Sandbox contracts:

1.You pay for contracts with Salary Points. See here for a discussion of Salary Points: (Insert link to Salary Point discussion.)
2.All contracts are paid up front in full. Once you have a player under contract, you never have to pay more for him during the contract period.
3.Contracts go with the player. If you trade for a player, you get him for the remaining length of his contract, and it costs you nothing. (The other team already paid the contract up front.) Of course, if you trade a player away or release a player, or if he retires, you do NOT recover any Salary Points for the lost years.
4.There are two types of contracts: Rookie Contracts and Veteran Contracts. They act identically, but have different costs associated with them. Rookie contract costs and lengths are based on the round in which the rookie was drafted. Veteran contract costs and lengths depend on how much you are willing to pay that player in the free agency process, as well as the player's position. Some positions have higher salary costs per year than others.
5.In the Sandbox universe, we make free agency simple. Salaries and contract lengths are tied together. Paying a lot of money to a player will give you the rights to that player for a longer period of time. There's no need to figure out complex intricacies with salary caps and short-term contracts and negotiations. It's a very simple process: if you pay $XX for a player, he's under contract for Y years based on the two tables we'll show you below.
6.You're not obligated to keep a player on the roster for his entire contract. You can trade him or release him at any time, or he can retire at any time. (Note that retirements are based on the real NFL player's retirement. We don't simulate that.). However, as noted earlier, you don't get any money back if you sign a player for 7 years and

Let's talk about rookie contracts first. Rookies work under the rookie contract table. If you draft a rookie, you need to sign him to a contract. The length of the contract will depend on how much you pay him, based on the following table:

Salary Points Required For Signing Rookies
Draft Round
Contract Lengtd R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 R7
7 year 110 70 50 40 30 25 20
6 year 84 53 38 30 23 19 15
5 year 61 39 28 22 17 14 11
4 year 41 26 19 15 11 9 7
3 year 24 15 11 9 7 6 4
2 year 11 7 5 4 3 3 2
1 year 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

For example, if you choose to sign your first-round pick to a 7-year contract, you will pay 110 Salary Points to do so. If you wish to sign your 6th-round pick to a 4-year contract, you will pay 9 Salary Points.

Rookie contracts will always be an exact value in the table. For example, a 3rd round pick will have a contract cost of 50 salary points, 38 salary points, 28 salary points, or so on, depending on your decision about contract length. A rookie will never have a contract cost between the amounts shown on the table.

Veterans use a different contract table, shown below.

Salary Points Required For Signing Rookies
Position Tier
Contract Lengtd Tier1 Tier2 Tier3 Tier4 Tier5
7 year 200 125 100 85 50
6 year 152 95 76 65 38
5 year 110 69 55 47 28
4 year 74 46 37 31 19
3 year 44 28 22 19 11
2 year 20 13 10 9 5
1 year 0 0 0 0 0

The tiers correlate to different positions:

Tier 1 = QB
Tier 2 = WR, HB, LT, CB, DE4, OLB (3-4);
Tier 3 = TE, DE3, ILB, MLB, SLB, WLB, DT;
Tier 4 = C, G, FB, FS, SS;
Tier 5 = K, P

For example, a 7-year contract for a quarterback (Tier 1) will cost a minimum of 200 points, while a 7-year contract for a kicker (Tier 5) will cost a minimum of 50 points.

Veteran contracts are awarded when you do one of the following:

Win a free agency bid
Offer a long-term contract to a player on your roster whose contract has expired
Matching another team's bid for a player on your team who has entered free agency.

Unlike rookie contracts, veteran contracts can be any amount. However, the number of contract years is the threshold below that amount, not above it. For example, if you pay $69 for a halfback (Tier 2), you can see from the table that his contract will be for 5 years. However, if you pay $68 for a halfback, his contract will be for 4 years. For a Tier 2 player in this example, any contract amount from $46 to $68 will result in a 4-year contract. Any amount between $69 and $94 will result in a 5-year contract.

For more on free agency and signing players to contracts, go here: [Insert link to "Signing Players to Contracts"]

Video 4: Salary Points and Contracts-An Overview

Waivers and In-Season Transactions

What it is: Non-existent.

When you can do it: Never.

Where it is: Lame fantasy football games.

One of our pet peeves about fantasy football is that it doesn't reward the smartest or the luckiest. It rewards the people who have NFL news texted to their phones and can quickly pick up emerging stars. Speed is as valuable as skill in that game.

In the real world, and in the Sandbox league, you're rarely or never going to pick up a star off of waivers. There's a reason that those guys aren't on a roster. In our league, "street free agents" can come and go as you need them, but they key to building a team is a knowledgeable, thoughtful, and occasionally lucky use of the draft and free agency. Like the NFL, your 53-man roster at the beginning of the season is as strong as you're going to be. After that, you're trying to plug holes and keep a starting lineup on the field. The war goes to those who can obtain high performance and avoid injuries, so good luck to you.

Releasing Players and Retirements

What it is: Some players retire and leave your team, and sometimes you may want to release a player from your roster, either to meet a roster size limit or because the player is simply not productive any more. You may also wish to release a player if you hate his guts in the real NFL and can't abide by having him on your team even if it's all fictional and no one will ever know. We understand that, because we grew up watching Bill Romanowski.

When you can do it: There are no rosters moves during a season. Retirements occur at the end of a season; however, the player is not automatically removed from your roster in case you think he's Brett Favre and you're willing to hold a roster spot for him. You can make cuts at any time during the Sandbox offseason (June to January).

Where it is: To release a player, you go to your team name on the menu bar and select "Manage Roster". Next to each player is a button that you can select to "release player".

At certain points of the season you may be forced to release players.

In the unlimited free agency period from August to December, you are limited to 80 players on your roster. If you sign an 81st player, you will be forced to release someone to make room for him.
In January, you have to cut your roster to 53 players.
In the limited free agency period in January, you must maintain a 53-man roster. If you sign a limited free agent, you must release someone to make room for him if your roster is at the limit.

If a player's contract counts down to zero years, he will leave via free agency per the rules of that process. However, while he is on your roster, do not release him unless you're sure that you do not want to match the free agency offer that he receives. If you release him, he is no longer on your team and you cannot match his offer. He's a free man.

Using Talent

Player Availability

What it is: In the Sandbox universe, you'll know your player availability for the entire season as you enter Week 1. Since the Sandbox season follows the NFL season, you'll know which NFL players got injured and when, so you can work around it.

When you can do it: Player availability will be posted prior to Week 1 of the Sandbox season in February. Of course, you can keep an eye on player availability beforehand by watching the NFL during the Sandbox offseason.

Where it is: Under your team name on the menu bar, select "Player Availability".

Player availability each week in the Sandbox season is linked to each player's week-by-week availability in the previous season's NFL games. In general, the player's availability the previous NFL season will be identical to his availability in the current Sandbox season. If, for example, Sid Luckmann played in Weeks 1 through 4 of the NFL season and was then injured for the year, he will be available in Weeks 1 through 4 of the Sandbox season and will then be injured for the year.

There are some exceptions to the rule, and they're generally judgment calls. For example, some players may be release from teams or injured with a questionable status or on practice squads, and it's unclear whether they were truly available to play or not. Also, if a player's team doesn't make the playoffs, no one knows if he would have been available in the Super Bowl or not. So while you can use player availability stats on other sites as a general rule, recognize that the Sandbox system may differ slightly, and you have to play in the Sandbox universe. Sometimes it's a bummer when a player doesn't show up as available, but hey, that's life. Deal with it, just like NFL GMs have to deal with surprises.

The good news is that you won't be surprised from week to week. The Sandbox system will show you the player's availability for the full season once the season begins. Click on your team name in the toolbar, and then select "Player Availability". (Chris, let's change the "Roster" menu item to "Player Availability".)

Note that we don't have bye weeks in Sandbox football. The availability calendar is based on the Game Number, not the Week Number. So for example, if Gino Marchetti misses the 9th game of the season in the NFL, but had his bye week in Week 4, he missed Week 10 in the NFL, but he will miss Week 9 in Sandbox.

Note that "Player Availability" will not be available in the Sandbox offseason. You can watch the NFL to get a general idea of how your Sandbox roster is faring.

Injuries

What it is: Injuries occur in the game to the extent that they prevent a player from playing.

When you can do it: Injuries occur every game. It's your job to adjust your depth chart and game plan to adjust for those injuries. Season-long injury reports

Where it is: Under your team name in the menu bar, select "Player Availability" to see when players are hurt and available by week.

Injuries in Sandbox football have some particular characteristics.

First, they mirror the real world. If Sid Luckman plays in the NFL for the first three games of the season and then misses five games and then comes back for the final eight weeks, that's what he'll do in the next Sandbox season. There is no "probable" or "questionable". He either plays or he doesn't.

Second, injuries do not occur mid-game. You have a player for a full game or none of the game.

See "Player Availability" for more information on how to find your players' injury status and plan accordingly.

Depth Charts and Lineups

What it is: This is the way that you identify who your starters are, who your backups are, and any situational substitution.

When you can do it: February, after the Limited Free Agency period ends and throughout the Sandbox season. The depth chart is inactive at all other times and cannot be changed.

Where it is: Lineups are accessed by selecting "Game Planning" and then selecting either "Offensive Lineup" or "Defensive Lineup". The depth chart is pretty obvious. It defines who your starters are, and who your backups are. See the next section for rules about setting a 3-4 defense versus a 4-3 defense.

When you set your depth chart, it's very important to remember that it will not update automatically with injuries. If a player is injured, he will automatically be removed from the depth chart, but that's the only automatic part. If your starter is injured, you must manually move your second stringer up to the starting position, and if a player comes back from injury you must manually insert him into the depth chart. If you don't do this, the vacant spot left by your injury will be filled by a "street free agent".

"Street free agents" represent the borderline players who are signed and released from rosters every week in the NFL. They're not good enough to make a team in the long term, but they're needed to fill roster spots. They cost you nothing, but recognize that they perform at the bottom tier of the league at their position. (Even so, it's better to use a street free agent at nose tackle rather than moving your backup halfback there, even if your halfback has a name. Think about it in common sense terms.)

There are a few limitations on depth charts. The most obvious is that you cannot put a player into two spots on the depth chart. So you cannot have a player listed as both your backup left tackle and backup right tackle. That's not a problem, though, because injuries do not occur mid-game. (See the injury section.) You will have plenty of time to fill in for an injured player and shuffle your depth chart between games.

The other limitation is on playing players out of their natural position. When you select a position for your depth chart, you will be given a popup list of every player who is eligible for that position. It's generally limited to players who could possibly outperform a street free agent at the position. However, that's not a guarantee. The bottom line is that you can't put every player on your roster in every position. It has to be a situation that could possibly make sense. There will be no quarterbacks at nose tackle, for example, even if it's that 300-pound quarterback that the Giants had a few years back.

When you select a spot on your depth chart and the popup list appears, you'll probably notice that some names are "grayed out" and not possible to select. This is because they are already selected on the depth chart at another position. If you really need Sammy Baugh at quarterback and he's grayed out, take him off the depth chart at punter or defensive back. We don't allow two-way players in this league.

So what if you don't have enough players to fill the depth chart? Either you don't have that third tight end on the roster, or you have injuries, or you just don't have the right talent set? There's a simple answer for that, and you don't have to worry about having only 10 men on the field. Holes are automatically filled by "street free agents".

The software will automatically identify your top kicker, punter, kick returner, and punt returner, so you don't need to worry about those positions.

Video 5: Depth Charts-How They Work

3-4 Versus 4-3 Defense

What it is: A declaration of the type of defense you will run for the upcoming season.

When you can do it: February, after the Limited Free Agency period ends. This is a one-time decision made once per year.

Where it is: A once-per-year popup that occurs as you approach the beginning of the Sandbox season in February.

Once per year at the end of the offseason, immediately before the depth charts are opened, you will be asked if you wish to run a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense. It is very important to select wisely, because once selected you cannot change this until the end of the season. Teams do not change defensive schemes mid-season, so you have to make the call and live with it for the whole season. Don't screw this up!

Game Plan Development

What it is: This is the way that you plan your on-field strategy by identifying run and pass plays and formations based on the game situation.

When you can do it: Weekly, during the Sandbox season. You do it to get ready for each game, taking into account your talents, the other team's talents, and injuries on both sides.

Where it is: Go to the Game Planning menu, and select Offensive Game Plan or Defensive Game Plan in the dropdown menu.

The offensive game plans are simple. You have three base scenarios: a normal offense, a hurry-up offense when you need to score quickly, and a "run out the clock" offense when you want to grind the clock down to protect a lead.

In each scenario, you'll face certain "down and distance" situations. You may have a 1st and 10, and 4th and short, or anything in between. For each situation, you'll identify how often you use a particular formation, and how often you will pass from that formation.

For example, on 2nd down and 6-9 yards to go in a normal scenario, you may decide to use your base offense 70% of the time, a 2-TE single back set 20% of the time, a 3-WR set 8% of the time, and a 4-WR set 2% of the time. In the base offense, you decided that you'll pass 45% of the time, in the 2-TE set you'll pass 40% of the time, in the 3-WR set you'll pass 68% of the time, and in the 4-WR set you'll pass 95% of the time. When you input these numbers, that defines how your team will behave in certain situations.

On 2nd down and 6-9 yards in a hurry up scenario, you may tilt more toward passing formations and passing plays, and in a "run out the clock" scenario, you may tilt in the opposite direction. It's all your decision and your planning, and it affects your team's playcalling and their use of talent.

Your formation percentages should equal 100%. If not, the computer will make the change for you.

The other part of the offensive game plan is how you use your running backs. You can identify up to 3 halfbacks and your fullback to get carries. Usually your first-team halfback will get most of the carries, but it's your call. Your top running back can withstand a load on running, but if you give him more than 300 carries in a season, and that amount is more carries than he had in the actual NFL season, then it will burn him out and his performance will be hindered for the rest of his career, performing below that player's performance in NFL seasons going forward.

As a tip, remember that your game plan is used to define probabilities in the simulation. Random numbers are drawn to identify whether the play will be a run or a pass. If you say, "99% of the time in 4th and long in a hurry up offense, I'm going to call a run", then remember that 1 time in 100 you're going to call a run in that situation. Don't go crying about it when it happens, because we know what fate is like. Fate says that if there's a 1 percent chance of the worst thing going wrong in a critical situation, that 1 percent is going to happen.

The defensive game plan is similar in nature. First, you identify the defensive formation that you'll use against specific offensive formations. Your defense will then react to your opponent's offensive formations, making the substitutions that you specify.

Next, you identify how often your backup defensive linemen rotate into the game, and in what type of situation (run, pass, or neutral). It's important to have a defensive line rotation, because if you don't your defensive linemen will get fatigued and their performance will decline.

You then define where your strong safety normally plays-inside the box or outside.

Fourth, you identify which players will leave the game when you go into nickel or dime defenses.

And finally, you will identify who will blitz and how often in each defensive formation. You can define up to five blitz packages for each defensive formation.

Video 6: Developing Game Plans

The Game Day Experience

Player Performance

What it is: Duh.

When you can do it: During the Sandbox season. Duh.

Where it is: You'll be able to see individual player stats by selecting "Stats" on the menu bar.

Player performance in Sandbox football is based on the player's NFL performance during the previous NFL season, but with some very important exceptions. Those exceptions are:

First, your player in Sandbox will have different teammates and different opponents than he did in the NFL. The highly complex and detailed Sandbox modeling system takes this into account. For example, your running back may have had a very good fullback leading him in the NFL, but in Sandbox he may have a very weak fullback. His offensive linemen may be better or worse. In a short yardage situation, maybe he has three great blocking tight ends in Sandbox, and didn't in the NFL. And of course, if you're on your third-string left tackle in Sandbox due to injuries, and you're playing a team with a ferocious pass rush, your quarterback may be in for a really bad day.

In short, the Sandbox system takes your player's performance from the NFL and transfers it to Sandbox, but it also accounts for the strengths and weaknesses of both his teammates and opponents. A great quarterback will struggle if he's not surrounded by solid receivers and blockers, and an average quarterback may shine if he's throwing to all pros and never gets his uniform dirty.

There are also a few other factors, particularly as they relate to running backs and defensive linemen. Those two positions can get fatigued if they're heavily used, so you want to be careful to give them an occasional breather by building substitutions into your game plan.

A second factor is playing out of position. Sometimes injuries will force you to play a player out of position. His performance will likely not be as strong in a different position. As we discuss in the "Injuries" section, you'll want to take that into account as the inevitable need arises.

A third factor in player performance is more of a clarification. This is not fantasy football. This is far more advanced. Therefore, your players' performances in a given week are not directly correlated to their performance in an NFL game week. Just because Don Huston caught 5 touchdown passes in Week 1 against the Bears, he's not going to catch 5 touchdown passes in Week 1 for you. Player performance is based on their performance throughout the season (with some random variance, of course), not their week to week performance.

Read the section on "How the Games are Played" and "Viewing Game Results" to see more about player performance.

How The Games Are Played

What it is: The invisible alien-based sentient intelligence that simulates the games behind the scenes.

When you can do it: Weekly, during the Sandbox season. But you don't do anything. You just read the results.

Where it is: Select your team name on the menu bar, and then look at "League Schedule" for box scores and results.

Each week during the Sandbox season, your team will be pitted against a league opponent, and, any given Sunday aside, the best team will win.

Your role in getting ready for the game is talent acquisition, depth chart creation, and game plan development. Once the whistle blows and the kicker approaches the tee, everything else is handled by Sandbox.

The Sandbox system combines your team's talent and game plan against the other team's talent and game plan, and creates a play by play simulation of the game. It takes into account game situations, the score, the clock, and everything else. Once the kickoff starts, you are an interested spectator (though you don't watch it unfold live-you view the results afterward).

Viewing Game Results

What it is: Seeing how you fared each week. You can view the play by play and box scores from each game, as well as the standings.

When you can do it: Weekly, during the Sandbox season.

Where it is: After a week's games have been played, select your team name on the menu bar, and then look at "League Schedule" for box scores and results. You can look at the box score if you don't like surprises, but we recommend scrolling through the play by play first. It's more exciting that way.

You can also select your team name and scroll for the league standings and both team and league schedules. You can go to the stats menu and view statistics to see how your individual players are faring.

Video 7: Viewing Game Results, Standings, and Stats

Playoffs and Championships

What it is: The ultimate goal

When you can do it: After Week 16.

Where it is: Playoff schedules, box scores, and play by plays are added as they occur after Week 16, in the same place where you view regular season schedules, box scores, and play by plays.

Each Sandbox league consists of 24 teams. Those teams are organized into two conference, the Lunar and Solar. Each Conference has three divisions, which each consist of four teams.

Five teams from each conference make the playoffs. To make the playoffs, you have to win your division, or you have to have one of the two best records among non-division winners.

In the first round of the playoffs, the two wild card teams will play each other. The winner then takes on the top seed among division sinners, which is the team with the best record. In each subsequent round, the highest seed takes on the lowest seed until a champion (undoubtedly your team) emerges from the pile.

The tiebreakers in Sandbox are simple. The best record wins the first tiebreaker, and after that the best point differential wins the tiebreaker. If that's still a tie, the team with the highest ratio of points scored divided by points yielded wins. If that's still a tie, we flip a coin or you may opt to fly to the other owner's city and send us a videotaped and notarized rock, paper, scissors thing. Frankly, we recommend just going with the coin flip. (Chris, is this the actual tiebreaker process? I'm kind of guessing.)

Miscellaneous

Changing Team Name and City

What it is: Impossible.
When you can do it: Never.
Where it is: Maybe in some alternate univsere
We know, it's fun to re-name your team every week, but this isn't fantasy football. This is Sandbox football, where the teams are real (kind of) and the sport is serious. Your team and league is in it for the long haul, and if you change your name all the time it really screws with our databases, y'know what I mean?
When a new team is created, you can choose from a list of cities and teams, and that's it. That's the city, that's the team. Unless you're Art Modell, you can't recreate a team's identity.

E-Mail notifications

We strongly recommend that you go to the "Account Management" menu, select "Change E-Mail Notifications" and be sure that the "Notify me about important game events" box is checked. Doing so will ensure that you get messages about key calendar events ("the draft is starting!"), trade offers ("Dick Butkus for Ryan Leaf, straight up"), game results ("Week 12 scores are posted!") and other key information. Otherwise, you will not receive notifications and will need to check the game frequently.

Signup page

Signing up to own a Sandbox football franchise is a simple process. You will simply decide which team you would like, and register onto the site. When you sign up, you'll get an account that allows you to control all of your team's activities.
Once you register, you will have a choice of up to four teams, and you can obtain one or more of them.
Option 1-Start your own team. You will be assigned a core roster of 33 mid-tier players, and then will participate in a "star player" draft to fill out your team. It takes a little longer to start your league, but you have control from Day One. Price: $15 per year.
Option 2-Take over a strong existing team. You will take over a team whose record has averaged 10-6 or higher over the past three seasons. Price: $10 in Year One, $15 each year afterwards.
Option 3-Take over a competitive existing team. You will take over a team whose record has averaged between 7-9 and 9-7 over the past three seasons. Price: $5 in Year One, $10 in Year Two, $15 each year afterwards.
Option 4-Take over a rebuilding existing team. You will take over a team whose record has averaged 6-10 or worse over the past three seasons. Price: $1 in Year One, $5 in Year Two, $10 in Year Three, $15 each year afterwards.

Video 1: Rookies: Drafting Them and Signing Them To Contracts

Every April, the NFL drafts rookies. In the Sandbox League, we draft from that same rookie class in July.

The Sandbox rookie draft is exactly like the NFL draft. It's 7 rounds, and the draft order is determined by the teams' finish the previous season. You can draft any player who was drafted by an NFL team the previous April. You can't draft players who were signed as undrafted free agents, though you can compete to sign them during the limited free agency period the following January.

Watch your news feed for word about when the draft will begin, and if you have your e-mail notifications turned on you'll receive an e-mail. Be sure that it doesn't get sent to your spam box, though.

So here's what happens in the rookie draft.

[At this point, show the screen and click along.] First, go to the Drafts menu and select "Rookie Draft". On the right side, you'll see the draft order and what team is on the clock once the draft is underway. Once players have been drafted, you can sort this in various ways by clicking on the headers. You can sort by team or player or position.

Now look at the left side, and you'll see a list of the eligible players. Just like the draft board, by clicking on the various headings, you can sort them by name or position or by NFL draft order.

So how do you pick players?

Look in the middle of the screen and you'll see the draft board. You can move players from the eligible board to the draft board if you're interested in them. Once you have some players on your draft board, you can move them up or down your list by clicking and dragging them. Once you have your list ready, you click the box at the top to lock the board. You can always unlock it and make more changes later, and add or remove players.

When your pick comes up, you will have an allotted amount of time to make your pick, and one of three things is going to happen.

If you have the draft board locked, the top player on your board will be taken immediately, and everyone will like you because you were efficient.

If you do not have the draft board locked, you may manually draft a player by selecting the "draft" button. You must move the player off of your draft board to do this, placing him back into the larger pool in the leftmost columns and then clicking the "draft" button next to him. You can also move him to the top of your draft board and then lock it, and he'll be picked immediately.

If your allotted time expires without making a pick, the top player on your draft board will be chosen even if the draft board is not locked. If you don't have players on your draft board, then the highest-drafted remaining player will be assigned to you regardless of position.

Video 2: Free Agents-Losing Them, Retaining Them, Bidding On Them, and Signing Them

Free Agency (Limited and Unlimited)

You drafted that player. You developed him. You made him the star that he is. Now you have to keep him, or else he'll walk to your division rival and laugh about it as your brokenhearted fans blame you.

Welcome to the world of free agency.

But even as you lose players, you also have the opportunity to acquire them. Rising stars, fading heroes, and underrated role players can all be yours if you outmaneuver those other conniving owners.

Let's talk first about your own free agents. How do you know if someone's about to walk, and how do you keep them from doing so?

Click on your team name in the Menus, and then select "Manage Roster". You'll see your list of players, and you'll see the years remaining on their contract. Once the years remaining hits "zero", that means they're about to hit the free agent market.

Can you keep them from hitting the market? Yes, at least for some of them. You can opt to keep two players from hitting the free agent market by giving them long term contracts of five years or more. If you do that, they grin and sign the contract and they're back in the fold. But you can only do that for two players. Your option to do that will arise at the start of the Unlimited Free Agency Period, which occurs in July, right after the rookie draft.

If you don't re-sign the impending free agents, they'll stay on your roster until someone else signs them or until the 53-man cutdown occurs. But make no mistake about it-if their contract is up and you don't re-sign them, they're leaving.

Or are they? You actually still get one more chance at them. If you don't give a player a long-term contract, he goes out to the free agent market and people bid on him. If someone wins the bidding war, you'll get a notification, either when you log into the free agent marketplace or by e-mail if you have your notifications turned on. That notification will give you 24 hours to make an offer that beats the winning bid so you can retain the player. If you don't he's gone and will probably tell the press how shortsighted you were.

So that's how you lose players. More importantly, how can you acquire free agents of your own?

In the big picture, there are two periods of free agency. Unlimited free agency occurs in a weekly cycle through the Sandbox offseason from August to December, and we'll talk about it first. Limited free agency occurs on a one-time basis in January, before the season starts. All free agency occurs during the Sandbox offseason, which goes from August through January. You cannot acquire or sign players during the Sandbox season.

When free agency starts, you'll find the tools to bid on free agents under the "Drafts" menu. Select "Free Agent Auction."

The unlimited free agency period runs from August through December, and includes all NFL players who appeared on an opening-day 53-man roster in the NFL that season. Every week, players from one or two randomly selected NFL teams will be added to the free agency pool, so new talent will arrive for your consideration every week. You'll be evaluating them by their performance and prospects in the actual NFL games that are occurring.

The process for acquiring free agents is simple but competitive. If you go to the Drafts menu and select "Free Agent Auction", you will see three tables if you scroll down. Let's start at the top.

The first table includes free agents who are currently available for bidding. You can click the headers and sort those players by name, position, NFL team, current Sandbox owner (if any), current high bidder (if any), current high bid (if any), the time remaining before that player signs a contract with the high bidder, and boxes for you to make a bid if you wish to do so. Bids are made using available Salary Points, which are shown for you convenience in the upper left corner of the screen.

Once a Sandbox team submits a bid on a player, a timer starts. If no other team submits a bid within three days (72 hours), that player opts to accept the high bid and join that team.

While the three-day countdown is underway, other teams may enter a bid that is at least one Salary Point higher than the current bid. Any time a higher bid is submitted, the three-day countdown starts over again. The process continues until the high bid is not beaten for three days, or until the free agency period ends.

Once you win a bid for a player, his contract length is automatically calculated based on the contract amount the position (tier) of the player. Higher contract amounts produce longer contracts.

Recall that if there's a current Sandbox owner, that owner will have the right to beat the high bid if a player agrees to a contract.

If you scroll down from the first table, a second and third table appear as if by magic. The second is a list of free agents who have been signed, along with their contract amounts and new teams. The third is a list of free agents who are not yet available for bidding during the unlimited free agency period. This table shows the week that they will become available. The third table will be empty during the limited free-agency period since all remaining players will be available.

During unlimited free agency, roster sizes are limited to 80 players. Your bidding is also limited by the number of salary points you have, so you can't just bid willy-nilly on every player like you're Jerry Jones.

After the unlimited free agency period ends, teams will cut down to 53 players. We then enter the limited free agency period. It functions identically to the unlimited free agency process, with two exceptions. First, the 53-man limit is enforced instead of the 80-man limit, so teams will be cutting players who will enter the limited free agency pool. Second, players who were not on an opening day NFL roster enter the pool. For the most part, the limited agency period will be your final chance to fill gaps in your rosters, perhaps capture some good prospects who were waived by other teams, and occasionally claim a few jewels who emerged on NFL teams mid-season.

So that, noble owners, is how free agency works. May you use this tool to find the Reggie Whites of the league, and avoid the Albert Haynesworths.

Video 3: Trades-Proposing and Responding to Trades


The Rolling Stones once said, "You can't always get what you want through the draft and free agency", and they were right. Sometimes you just can't find that perfect running back or defensive end. At the same time, you may have a star riding the bench because you have two superstars in front of him, and that's no good for anybody.

For situations like these, making a trade may fix what ails you, and here's how to do that. It's pretty easy.

First, let's talk about proposing a trade. In the Trades menu, select "Propose Trade".

If you would like to propose a trade, it's a simple process.

Go to the Trades menu, and select "Propose Trade". This will bring you to the trade proposal dashboard.

The trick here is that you build your trade one player or draft pick at a time., You pick a team, select the player or draft pick that they'll give up in the trade, and then click "Add to Transaction". You can do that as many times as you want, and you can insert multiple teams if you're proposing a three-way trade or more. Each time you hit "Add to Transaction", you'll see the trade offer being built at the top of the screen.

You do the same thing with your own team since you have to give something to get something. Trades don't have to be player for player, or draft pick for draft pick. Three-way trades are possible, two-for-one player trades are possible, combinations of players and draft picks are possible you name it.

Once you have the entire transaction listed at the top of the screen, you do two things. You click "Propose Trade" and then you click the box that says "Approve Trade".

Your trade offer will then be delivered to the other teams involved in the trade that you're proposing. They can accept or reject the trade using the process below.

Your offer will be active for up to 72 hours, or until the other owner(s) accept or reject the trade. You can view any trade offers you have outstanding by selecting the Trades Menu and clicking on Pending Trades. In that menu, you can unclick the "Approve Trade" option if you're having second thoughts, but ONLY if the other owner(s) haven't already accepted the trade.

All owners involved in the trade must select the "Approve Trade" box in order for it to take place. Otherwise, it silently disappears into the mist of the Sandbox league archives.

As a reminder, it's a good idea to look at contract status when proposing a trade. Remember that all contracts are paid up front, so if you trade away a player who has seven years left on his contract, he's free for the other owner for seven years, and you paid for it. Likewise, if you trade for a player who has 1 year left on his contract, he's going to leave for free agency in a year unless you take steps to retain him by offering a long-term contract or matching any offers in free agency. Note that a player with zero years left on his contract will leave for free agency immediately, but there's still some value there if the new owner wants to immediately give him a long-term contract. Each player's contract status is shown on the rosters when you make a trade offer, so it's pretty easy to analyze.

If you wish to solicit offers for trades, you can offer players for consideration in the "Trade Block" section, which can be accessed by selecting "Trades" in the menu and then selecting "The Trade Block".

As with other personnel moves, remember that you can only make trades during the Sandbox offseason.

So that's how you offer trades. Sometimes people will also offer you trades, and occasionally they won't be stupid and lopsided offers that make you roll your eyes.

If you receive a trade offer, you will find out one of two ways. If your e-mail notifications are turned on, you will receive an e-mail notice. Otherwise, watch for your message notifications in the upper right-hand corner of the screen for "Pending Trades".

If you see a "Pending Trade" notification, you can go to the Trades menu and select "Pending Trades" to view the offer. At that point, it's simple. You select either "Accept Trade" or "Reject Trade". If you reject the trade, nothing happens other than perhaps some other owner whining about how you overvalue your players. If you accept the trade, it happens immediately and all of the rosters and draft picks are automatically updated. But remember to look at the contract status of any players, because you don't want to get burned when someone trades you a player whose contract is about to expire.

So that's how trades work. Confidentially, we see you making a killing on trades since you're so much more intelligent and knowledgeable than those other owners in your league.

Video 4: Salary Points and Contracts-An Overview


As we know, running a football team is a business. You have a certain amount of money to spend, and you can't win a championship if you spend all of it on Javon Walker or Elvis Grbac or essentially anyone the Redskins have ever signed in free agency.

In the Sandbox league, your currency is salary points. At the end of every season, you'll get an infusion of 450 salary points in your account. You'll use this currency to sign your rookies to contracts, bid on free agents and sign them, re-sign your own players if you decide to extend their contracts, and match contract bids from other teams to retain your own free agents. That's it-there's only one way to get salary points, and four ways to spend salary points.

If you click on your team name in the menu, you can go to "Manage Roster" and you will see your available salary points in the upper left-hand corner. That's your bank balance. For convenience your balance is also shown on the Free Agency Bidding page, and if you go to the "Standings" sub-menu, you can see the balance of all the other teams in the league.

While we're in that menu, let's talk about contracts, and how they relate to salary points.

Contracts are your opportunity to lock players onto your team for a specific period of time. This is done automatically for free agents you acquire and for departing free agents if you match their bids, and is calculated based on the price you pay for them. You define contract lengths for rookies, and you define contract lengths for up to two free agents per year if you wish to sign them to long-term contracts. See the free agency rules for more information about free agency.

To review and sign contracts, go to your team name and select, "Manage Roster". If you've been playing along, you're probably already in that screen.

Any player on your team must have a contract, and you'll see the remaining years on the contract as you scroll through your roster. Sandbox Football uses a simple but realistic contract system that links pay to contract length. In real life, the bigger contracts also tend to be longer contracts, so we made it simple. You only have to worry about contract amounts, and the lengths are calculated automatically.

There are six key things to remember about Sandbox contracts:

1.First, all contracts are paid up front in full. Once you have a player under contract, you never have to pay more for him during the contract period.

7.Second, contracts go with the player. If you trade for a player, you get him for the remaining length of his contract, and it costs you nothing. The other team already paid the contract up front. Of course, if you trade a player away or release a player, or if he retires, you do NOT recover any Salary Points for losing him.

8.Third, there are two types of contracts: Rookie Contracts and Veteran Contracts. They act identically, but have different costs associated with them. Rookie contract costs and lengths are based on the round in which the rookie was drafted. Veteran contract costs and lengths depend on how much you are willing to pay that player in the free agency process, as well as the player's position. Some positions have higher salary costs per year than others.
If you scroll up a little bit on the "Manage Roster" screen, you'll see two tables. The table on the right is the cost in salary points of a rookie, depending on which round you drafted him and how many years you want to lock him in. For example, if you want to lock a 4th round choice in for 2 years, it'll cost you 4 salary points, but if you want to lock him in for 7 years it'll cost you 40 points.
On the left side, you'll see a table for veteran contracts. If you're signing a veteran, you pay him based on his position tier and the length of the contract. You can see the position tiers of your existing roster next to their names, and you can see a general list of position tiers under the "Drafts" menu at the top of the "Free Agent Auction" page.

9.The fourth thing to remember is that we make veteran contracts simple. Salaries and contract lengths are tied together. Paying a lot of money to a player will give you the rights to that player for a longer period of time. There's no need to figure out complex intricacies with salary caps and short-term contracts and negotiations. It's a very simple process: if you pay $XX for a player, he's under contract for Y years based on the table at the top of the "Manage Roster" page.

10.Fifth, you're not obligated to keep a player on the roster for his entire contract. You can trade him or release him at any time, or he can retire at any time. Note that retirements are based on the real NFL player's retirement. We don't simulate that. However, as noted earlier, you don't get any money back if a player leaves your team before his contract expires. You pay the whole contract up front.

11.And finally remember that you pay for contracts with Salary Points.

With rookies, you'll go to "Manage Roster" after the draft is over and you'll sign all of your rookies at once using the options in the table. Rookies are always signed to one of the exact amounts on the table.

Unlike rookie contracts, veteran contracts can be any amount. However, the number of contract years is the threshold below that amount, not above it. For example, if you pay $69 for a halfback, which is a Tier 2 position, you can see from the table that his contract will be for 5 years. However, if you pay $68, his contract will be for 4 years. For a Tier 2 player in this example, any contract amount from $46 to $68 will result in a 4-year contract. Any amount between $69 and $94 will result in a 5-year contract. Veterans are generally signed to contracts on a one by one basis when you win their free agency bid or when you get prompted that they're about to leave in free agency unless you pony up some cash.

Video 5: Depth Charts How They Work

Once your team is assembled, you have to organize them with depth charts and lineups. If you don't, chaos will prevail and your players will just run around the field in a big bunch like a preschool soccer league.

Depth charts and lineups are accessed by selecting "Game Planning" and then selecting either "Offensive Lineup" or "Defensive Lineup". It defines who your starters are, and who your backups are. This is not a year-round feature, and is only activated in February after the Limited Free Agency period ends. You can change lineups and depth charts from February through the end of the Sandbox season in June, but not in the Sandbox offseason. So if it's July through January, stop clicking the darn buttons already.

The depth chart is pretty obvious, so we'll let you figure out the basics. We'll just talk about some of the unique twists.

First, when you set your depth chart, it's very important to remember that the depth chart will not update automatically with injuries. If a player is injured, he will automatically be removed from the depth chart, but that's the only automatic part. If your starter is injured, you must manually move your second stringer up to the starting position, and if a player comes back from injury you must manually insert him into the depth chart. If you don't do this, the vacant spot left by your injury will be filled by a generic player called a "street free agent", which I'll explain in a moment. I cannot emphasize this enough: backups do not automatically elevate when the player ahead of them gets hurt. You have to make those decisions and adjustments every week.

The second thing to remember is that injuries do not occur mid-game. You'll always know who's injured before the game, and can plan accordingly. You will have plenty of time to fill in for an injured player and shuffle your depth chart between games. This is important because of some limitations on depth charts, and let's talk about those.

most obvious limitation is that you cannot put a player into two spots on the depth chart. For example, you cannot have a player listed as both your backup left tackle and backup right tackle. We do this to keep the process simple. If a player is listed in more than one place, we don't want him cloning himself mid-game when you change formations.

When you select a spot on your depth chart and the popup list appears, you'll probably notice that some names are "grayed out" and not possible to select. This is because they are already selected on the depth chart at another position. If you really need Walter Payton at free safety and he's grayed out, take him off the depth chart at running back. But seriously, don't ever take Walter Payton off the depth chart at running back.

The other limitation is on playing players out of their natural position. When you select a position for your depth chart, you will be given a popup list of every player who is eligible for that position. You can move players out of their natural position, but recognize that they usually aren't as good when you do that. Also, you can't put any player at any position, such as moving your backup quarterback to nose tackle. It's generally limited to position changes that make sense, in that some NFL players could potentially make the move and still outperform a generic street free agent. There will be no defensive ends at wide receiver and no kickers playing guard, not even Janikowski. Players that are ineligible for a position will not even appear in your popup list.

So what if you don't have enough players to fill the depth chart? Either you don't have that third tight end on the roster, or you have injuries, or you just don't have the right talent set. There's a simple answer for that, and you don't ever have to worry about having only 10 men on the field. Holes are automatically filled by players called "street free agents".

I've mentioned "Street free agents" a couple of times now, and let's talk about them. "Street free agents" represent the borderline players who are signed and released from rosters every week in the NFL. They're not good enough to make a team in the long term, but they're needed to fill roster spots. They cost you nothing and they're always automatically available if you have a hole in your lineup, but recognize that they perform at the bottom tier of the league at their position. We don't even give them names because they're going to bounce on and off your roster like Brett Favre at the end of his career.

However, just because they're at the bottom tier for their position doesn't mean they're your worst option. If you have a hole at nickel back, for example, it may be better to use a street free agent than to move a slow run-thumping inside linebacker there, even if the thumper has a name. But if you have a light and fast inside linebacker, maybe he would be fine. Think about it in common sense terms and act accordingly. For example, if you were the 1972 Miami Dolphins, you could probably move Mercury Morris out to wide receiver in a pinch and he'd do fine, but Larry Csonka wouldn't be a good fit and you'd be better off using a street free agent.

As a final note, the software will automatically identify your top kicker, punter, kick returner, punt returner, and various special teams lineups, so you don't need to worry about those positions.

Video 6: Developing Game Plans


Game Plan Development

Sandbox football isn't a video game. You're not going to be jerking a controller around running Bo Jackson and Christian Okoye in circles as you batter defenders. We're much more cerebral than that.

In Sandbox, you develop a game plan for your offense and defense each week, and then sit back and eat nachos while the game is played. The players are the only ones who work on Sunday, and here's how it happens.

Before each game during the Sandbox season, you define and tweak your game plan, taking into account your talents, the other team's talents, and injuries on both sides. You do this by going to the Game Planning menu, where you select Offensive Game Plan or Defensive Game Plan in the dropdown menu.

The offensive game plans are simple. You have three base scenarios: a normal offense, a hurry-up offense when you need to score quickly, and a "run out the clock" offense when you want to grind the clock down to protect a lead. In each scenario, you'll face certain "down and distance" situations. You may have a 1st and 10, and 4th and short, or anything in between. For each situation, you'll identify how often you use a particular formation, and how often you will pass from that formation.

For example, on 2nd down and 6-9 yards to go in a normal scenario, you may decide to use your base offense 70% of the time, a 2-TE single back set 20% of the time, a 3-WR set 8% of the time, and a 4-WR set 2% of the time. In the base offense, you decided that you'll pass 45% of the time, in the 2-TE set you'll pass 40% of the time, in the 3-WR set you'll pass 68% of the time, and in the 4-WR set you'll pass 95% of the time. When you input these numbers, that defines how your team will behave in certain situations.

Your formation percentages should always total to 100%. If not, the computer will make the change for you.

The other part of the offensive game plan is how you use your running backs. You can identify up to 3 halfbacks and your fullback to get carries. Usually your first-team halfback will get most of the carries, but be careful not to overuse him. If you give a running back more than 300 carries in a season, and that amount is more carries than he had in the actual NFL season, then it will burn him out and his performance will be hindered for the rest of his Sandbox career, performing below that player's performance in NFL seasons going forward. This is the only instance where Sandbox football will diverge from NFL football on player performance.

As a tip, remember that your game plan is used to define probabilities in the simulation. Random numbers are drawn to identify whether the play will be a run or a pass. If you say, "99% of the time in 4th and long in a hurry up offense, I'm going to call a run", then remember that 1 time in 100 you're going to call a run in that situation. Don't go crying about it if it happens in a critical situation, because the players are just following your orders.

The defensive game plan is similar in nature. First, you identify the defensive formation that you'll use against specific offensive formations. Your defense will then react to your opponent's offensive formations, making the substitutions that you specify.

Next, you identify how often your backup defensive linemen rotate into the game, and in what type of situation (run, pass, or neutral). It's important to have a defensive line rotation, because if you don't your defensive linemen will get fatigued and their performance will decline over the course of a game.

You then define where your strong safety normally plays-inside the box or outside.

Fourth, you identify which players will leave the game when you go into nickel or dime defenses.

And finally, you will identify who will blitz and how often in each defensive formation. You can define up to five blitz packages for each defensive formation.

Your game plan is saved from week to week, so don't despair if it takes a while to set up at first. Barring injury problems, you'll probably just tweak it from week to week as the season goes on.

Once your game plan is set up, you're now ready to take the field and show the world the juggernaut team that you've built. Good luck!

Video 7: Viewing Game Results, Standings, and Stats


You do a lot of work to build your team and design a game plan, and it all pays off on game day. So what happens on game day and how do you find out?

Like the NFL, games are played weekly during the Sandbox season. Your role in getting ready for the game is talent acquisition, depth chart creation, and game plan development. Once the whistle blows and the kicker approaches the tee, everything else is handled by the Roswell-based alien technology within the Sandbox system.

This system is a very complex statistics-based Monte Carlo system that has been extensively tested. It combines your team's talent and game plan against the other team's talent and game plan, and creates a play by play simulation of the game. It takes into account game situations, the score, the clock, and everything else. Once the kickoff starts, the entire game is played within seconds, and you can then go into the box score to see the play by play and view the game stats.

You can see your schedule, your box scores, and game results by selecting your team name on the menu bar, and then looking at "League Schedule". After each game you can look at the box score if you don't like surprises, but we recommend scrolling through the play by play first. It's more exciting that way. You can do the same thing to look at other games and see how your rivals fared.

You can also select your team name and scroll for the league standings and both team and league schedules. If you're a stats person, you can go to the stats menu and view season statistics to see how your individual players are faring.

And this is a good time to remember what Sandbox football is, and is not. It's not a video game, so you won't see live-action animation of games. And it's not fantasy football by any means. It's a far more advanced system that considers each individual player's performance the season before, combines it with the performance of other players on your team and your opponent's team, considers the offensive and defensive game plans, and finally throws in some random variation. In the end, it develops an entirely new universe that reflects the team that YOU built.

In short, the Sandbox system takes your players' performance from the NFL and transfers them to Sandbox, but it also accounts for the strengths and weaknesses of both teammates and opponents, as well as the game plan. A great NFL quarterback will struggle if he's not surrounded by solid receivers and blockers, and an average quarterback may shine in the Sandbox world if he's throwing to all pros and never gets his uniform dirty. That's why it's important to build a strong team where the players complement each other's skills.

So build your team, build your game plan, and put your lineup in place. Then sit back each week and wait for the results with some nachos or something.

Start playing Sandbox Football
How Sandbox Football Works
League Calendar
Getting Started
Signing Up
Naming Your Team
Taking Over an Existing Team
Stocking A New Team (Startup Leagues Only)
Managing Multiple Teams
How To Manual
Acquiring Talent
Rookie Draft
Free Agency (Limited and Unlimited)
Proposing Trades
Accepting or Rejecting Trades
Retaining Talent
Salary Points
Contracts
Waivers and In-Season Transactions
Releasing Players and Retirements
Using Talent
Player Availability
Injuries
Depth Charts
3-4 vs. 4-3 Defense
Game Plan Development
The Game Day Experience
Player Performance
How the Games are Played
Viewing Game Results
Playoffs and Championsships
Miscellaneous
Changing Team Name and City
E-Mail Notifications
Signup Page