Video: For Love of the Game and Charity

Video: For Love of the Game and Charity

D.C. Generals, a National Public Safety Football League team, raises money for charity through football.

Fairfax County firefighter Steven McFarland used to play on the Fairfax High School field as a member of the school's football team.

On April 10, he took to that field again, but this time with the D.C.

Generals, a National Public Safety Football League team composed of police officers and firefighters from Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

The chance to play organized football again isn't the only reason McFarland suits up.

"This isn't just about playing football," he said. "It's about raising money. That's the whole reason we're doing this."

On April 10, the Generals opened their third NPSFL season against the Orlando Guardians. Twenty teams from around the country participate in the NPSFL, and games are designed to raise money for various charities.

The Generals, a non-profit organization, use the proceeds from games and various raffles to raise money for the D.C. Firefighters Burn Foundation, the Concerns of Police Survivors and the City of Fairfax Firefighters Benevolent Fund.

"It's just a privilege to be with people from all the other jurisdictions" said Fairfax Firefighter and Generals linebacker Brandon Winfield. "We work hard for our charities to help raise money."

Putting together a football team consisting of public safety officers from the tri-state area isn't an easy task.

McFarland said scheduling practice can be tough. Some team members drive from as far away as Baltimore.

"It's usually just three days a week," he said. "But we have guys coming from all over and the majority of practices are in Maryland."

The team also travels cross-country to play games. Winfield said the farthest the team has traveled is to San Diego.

"Each person is responsible for their own airfare," McFarland said. "But the host team is responsible for putting us in a hotel for two nights and [for providing] us with a practice field."

While the league's goal is to raise money, the players exhibit the kind of intensity one normally sees on a football field.

Coaches chew out players for mistakes, emotions run high on the field as the physical game ramps up and, despite the friendly nature of the contests, trash-talk is abundant.

The games can become so intense that rivalries have developed between teams.

The most famous is between “New York's Bravest,” the New York City fire department team, and “New York's Finest,” the New York City police department team.

The Generals said they've pegged the Philadelphia Blue Flame as the team to beat.

"Philadelphia is our biggest rival," Winfield said. "We have some tight games with them."

Even though the Generals lost their season opener with a 17-7 loss to the Orlando Guardians, the Fairfax players still viewed it as a victory.

"This is just a great way to give back to the folks who matter to us," said Joe Merritt, Fairfax firefighter and offensive lineman. "This is just one way of doing it for them."

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Filmed and edited by Reed S. Albers