Andrew Bucholtz

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Andrew Bucholtz is a Canadian football blogger for Yahoo! Sports.

  • Will Chad Johnson succeed in Canada, or fail to make it out of camp?Thursday provided confirmation that the talks between the Montreal Alouettes and Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson were more than just a promotional stunt, as Johnson officially signed a contract with the team. While Johnson has been known for self-promotion lately and hasn't played a regular-season NFL game since 2011, he's been training hard with Hall of Famer Cris Carter and has impressed during the Alouettes' Florida minicamp this week, and his stated desire to get back into high-level football suggests he's taking this relatively seriously. Montreal GM Jim Popp and his staff must agree, too, as it's tough to see the Alouettes giving Johnson a contract otherwise. However, there are still questions about where Johnson could fit with the Alouettes and if he'll manage to make it out of training camp.

    Read More »from How does Chad Johnson fit into the Alouettes’ lineup, and will he make it out of camp?
  • The Saskatchewan Roughriders have signed QB Darian Durant to an extension.The Saskatchewan Roughriders may have suffered remarkable attrition this offseason after winning the Grey Cup last November, but they've managed to retain one of their key pieces for the foreseeable future, signing quarterback Darian Durant to a multi-year extension Wednesday that will likely make him one of the league's highest-paid players.Based on his recent play, that's a solid move; 2013 saw Durant throw for 4,154 yards with a 61.2 per cent completion mark and 31 touchdowns against just 12 interceptions, staying effective and efficient when called upon despite the Riders' run-heavy strategy, and he was a crucial part of their run to the Grey Cup. His 2012 campaign was also impressive, as he racked up 3,878 passing yards with a 64.4 per cent completion mark and 20 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. It's worth noting that Durant has had substantial struggles in the past, though (something discussed here in 2012, the last time he signed an extension), and that he is turning 32 in

    Read More »from Riders sign Darian Durant to multi-year extension: can he maintain a high level of play?
  • The Stampeders' open tryout in New Orleans attracted plenty of top talent.A major part of the reason for the CFL's recent off-field success (including its massive new TV deal, substantial stadium deals and high franchise valuations) is the strong quality of the on-field product. This league has tons of top talent at the moment, and that's reflected both in the numbers of CFL players who are attracting NFL interest and in the ever-improving resumes of new CFL players. That latter element was on display this week at the Calgary Stampeders' open tryout in New Orleans. Just about every team does plenty of these tryouts (for example, the Edmonton Eskimos have 24 separate ones across the U.S. listed on their website), and they've proven quite valuable for most franchises, but it's particularly remarkable to see just how impressive the backgrounds of some CFL hopefuls at these camps are. The New Orleans Times-Picayune's Christopher Dabe covered the Stampeders' tryout, and his notes on some of the prospective players are well worth a read:

    Chad Boyd turned to keep pace with a receiver whose eyes focused on the airborne football, just as the all-conference defensive standout had done so many times in his life.

    Only this time the metal bleachers were nearly empty. It was mid-morning on a sunny Saturday in the spring. And the former Archbishop Shaw and Louisiana Tech defensive back desperately hoped to get noticed once again.

    This is another side to the NFL draft. Players who once had reasonable hopes to play professionally after college felt derailed by injury or other reasons. They're all at least a year removed from college. They each want another shot. ...

    "If an opportunity presents itself, I'm going to take it," Boyd said.

    Many players are in a similar position.

    Michael Smith, the leading receiver on Connecticut's Fiesta Bowl team in 2010, felt the season he missed the next year due to poor grades damaged his pro prospects, he said.

    Former Southern Miss linebacker Korey Williams already had three interceptions and returned one for a touchdown when he blew out a knee during the fourth game of his senior season.

    Those are players from some excellent programs, and perhaps even more notably, guys who shone for those teams. This isn't an anomaly, either; the B.C. Lions' tryout I attended last year in Seattle also featured players with impressive NCAA backgrounds, including former Cal star Kendrick Payne and Montana star Peter Nguyen, and most of the various teams' open tryouts attract some notable former college players. (The Montreal Alouettes even managed to reel in former NFL star Chad Johnson this week.)

    Read More »from Stampeders’ New Orleans tryout illustrates just how much talent’s out there for the CFL
  • Bombers’ quarterback Brian Brohm skips his honeymoon to attend the team’s mini-camp

    Brian Brohm (seen with Hamilton last year) skipped his honeymoon for Bombers' camp.Offseason trades can come with a lot of challenges, but one of the worst has to be missing your own honeymoon. That's what happened to Winnipeg Blue Bombers' quarterback Brian Brohm, who the team acquired from Hamilton in March. Brohm had his wedding set for April 12 in Louisville, Kentucky, which would have been fine with the Tiger-Cats' late-April minicamp, but wound up conflicting with the Bombers' earlier one (which started the same day at Florida's IMG Academy), one day after Brohm's wedding to Ashley Krawczyk ). The team was good enough to let Brohm miss the first two days of camp (arrival and one day of practice) for his wedding and travel to Florida, but as he told The Winnipeg Sun's Kirk Penton after arriving in time for Monday's practices, he's had to postpone his honeymoon:

    Read More »from Bombers’ quarterback Brian Brohm skips his honeymoon to attend the team’s mini-camp
  • Marwan Hage (seen with the 2009 Tom Pate Award) announced his retirement Monday.When the Ottawa Redblacks selected veteran Hamilton centre Marwan Hage in December's expansion draft, it looked like a promising move—if they could get him to go there. On Monday, it became official (after a weekend of rumblings) that Hage won't be coming to Ottawa, as he announced his retirement from the CFL at a press conference in Hamilton. No one can blame Hage for choosing to hang up his cleats after a 10-year punishing professional football career, but his loss will be felt by the Redblacks, who are now going to have to find someone else who can handle the responsibilities of leading their offensive line.

    Hage has been an important part of the league over the last decade, and he'll be missed both on and off the field. He spent his entire career with Hamilton until December, earning two divisional all-star nods and one league all-star nod, and he did plenty of impressive community work both in that city and others, helping distribute food and game tickets to those in need. His involvement with the CFL isn't coming to an end, either. Hage has been involved with the CFLPA as a player rep since 2007, and was recently re-elected as a CFLPA vice-president, a role he's held since 2010. He'll be an key figure in the ongoing CBA talks (further talks were held this weekend, with another round set for May). He's also planning to continue his Hage's Heroes efforts for food and toy drives, as well as bringing kids to Tiger-Cats' games.

    Read More »from Marwan Hage announces his retirement, which takes away a veteran leader from the Redblacks
  • Chad Johnson has been training with Cris Carter, will work out for Alouettes in Florida

    Former Miami Dolphin Chad Johnson will work out for the Alouettes in Florida.Get your "Huit-cinq" or "Quatre-vingt-cinq" (depending on whether you prefer a literal "eight-five" or an actual "eighty-five") jerseys ready; the chances of Chad Johnson (previously Chad Ochocinco) coming to the CFL's Montreal Alouettes have risen substantially. Johnson initially expressed interest in joining the B.C. Lions last month, but GM Wally Buono shot that idea down; Montreal general manager Jim Popp then added Johnson to the Alouettes' negotiation list. Things have progressed since then, with Popp saying Saturday that Johnson will work out for the team (which is holding open tryouts in Vero Beach, Florida) this week:

    "We do expect to meet with Chad Johnson and work him out in Vero Beach, Fla., this week," Popp said. "Talks did take place and have escalated over the last week."

    Johnson played 11 seasons in the NFL, the first 10 with Cincinnati. He last played in 2011 with New England, when he had 15 catches for 276 yards.

    The 36-year-old Los Angeles native confirmed on Twitter late Friday that he was planning to attend a mini-camp Tuesday for some on-field work.

    Most interestingly, CBS' Jason LaCanfora issued a series of tweets Saturday afternoon about Johnson's chances and how he's been working with Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter, a current ESPN analyst and father of Als' receiver Duron Carter:

    There are some valuable points there from LaCanfora, and they illustrate how the Alouettes may view Johnson. They're likely not expecting him to be the deep burner he was early in his career, but possibly more of a veteran route-runner and a guy who can make crucial catches. There could be an opening there, as the team released fellow 36-year-old veteran Arland Bruce earlier this year following his homophobic comments on Twitter. While the Als have plenty of other proven and promising receivers, including Carter, S.J. Green, Jamel Richardson and Brandon London, Bruce caught 64 balls for 851 yards (fifteenth in the CFL) last season, so there could be some passes up for grabs now that he's gone. The news that Johnson's working out with Carter and that the Alouettes have received reports on where he's at is also interesting; this won't be just a blind look or an attention-grabbing stunt from Johnson, but a serious evaluation from the team.

    Read More »from Chad Johnson has been training with Cris Carter, will work out for Alouettes in Florida
  • Alex Hall signs with NFL’s Carolina Panthers, adding to Saskatchewan’s losses

    Riders' DE Alex Hall is off to the NFL's Carolina Panthers.The NFL's Carolina Panthers have ventured north of the border again, announcing Friday that they've signed defensive end Alex Hall. Hall spent the last two seasons in the CFL, playing first with Winnipeg, then with Saskatchewan following a mid-season trade last year, and the 16 sacks he accumulated in 2013 was the league's second-highest total. While he was more productive with the Blue Bombers than the Roughriders (15 of his sacks came before the October trade) during the regular season, he rounded into form in the playoffs, generating plenty of pressure and recovering a crucial fumble in the Grey Cup. The NFL will be an adjustment for him, but he has great pass-rushing skills and could potentially be a big addition for the Panthers. He'll definitely be a substantial loss for the Roughriders and the CFL.

    Hall is the third player Saskatchewan's lost to the NFL this offseason, following the departures of running back Kory Sheets (for the Oakland Raiders) and slotback Weston Dressler (for the Kansas City Chiefs). That's substantial attrition to say the least, and that's before you discuss how many Roughriders' players have left for other CFL teams. Of course, this departure wasn't completely unexpected; Hall was a CFL free agent (the main reason why the rebuilding Bombers traded him in the middle of the season), so it's quite possible he might have left Saskatchewan even without interest from the NFL. Still, the NFL is certainly taking a toll on the Riders at the moment.

    Read More »from Alex Hall signs with NFL’s Carolina Panthers, adding to Saskatchewan’s losses
  • Niagara Falls, NY is being discussed as a potential home for the Buffalo Bills.The discussions of where the Buffalo Bills will eventually end up are continuing in the wake of owner Ralph Wilson's March death, and, as expected, they're largely shaping up as a tug-of-war between groups that want to see the team stay in Buffalo and groups that want to move them to Toronto. Both groups have powerful and well-heeled members, and both have points on their side; keeping the Bills in Western New York maintains history and matters to the region, but moving them to Toronto would help them tap a richer, more populous market. This week saw a new wrinkle thrown in, though, the almost literally Solomonic idea of splitting the difference and basing the team in Niagara Falls, New York. From John Wawrow of The Associated Press, here are the details:

    Don't rule out Niagara Falls as a potential future home of the Buffalo Bills.

    Several officials told The Associated Press that a newly formed Bills stadium task force of public and private leaders seeking to bolster the team's long-term viability is considering sites that would put it closer to the team's burgeoning Ontario fan base.

    ''We're looking at Niagara County,'' Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy told the AP this week. ''We're open to looking at a number of venues.''

    Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster confirmed Niagara County was discussed as an option during the inaugural meeting last week of the newly formed New Stadium Working Group committee.

    Duffy made clear ''that all options should be on the table,'' Dyster said, adding that includes Niagara County and even Batavia, about halfway between Buffalo and Rochester.

    That goes beyond the group's initial directive, which was first limited to seeking potential stadium sites in Erie County, where Buffalo is located.

    There's plenty to support that idea. Moving the team to Niagara (21 miles and less than half an hour from Buffalo proper, 35 miles and a 42-minute drive from the team's current home in Orchard Park, NY) would maintain the Bills as a Western New York team and still hopefully allow them to attract many of their existing American fans, but it would also put them closer to the heavily-populated cities of Southern Ontario (and the rich corporations that have their headquarters there). It also avoids the complications that would arise from basing a NFL team in Canada proper, which could include political and legal challenges (which happened before when someone tried to bring American football north and has been discussed again), but also could include the difficulties in getting publicly funded stadiums built north of the border, something typically much more challenging than it is in the States.

    Read More »from Bills’ Niagara Falls rumblings might serve as a compromise between Buffalo and Toronto
  • Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz (2nd from left) was at the stadium announcement conference in 2010, but can't see flooding damage for himself now.The extent of the flooding damage at Investors Group Field is still being hidden from the public, and that's troubling some government officials, given that the stadium was largely funded by tax dollars. Chief amongst them is Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz. The city contributed $10 million ($7.5 million in cash, $2.5 million in in-kind services) to the project directly and is paying another $37.5 million to the province over time (the province itself paid the costs up front, is loaning money to the Bombers, and is contributing $60 million) but wasn't involved in the stadium's design or construction. Like everyone else outside the construction group and the Bombers' executives, city officials aren't able to see the extent of the damage, and that's bothering Katz too. He said Wednesday he's not thrilled to hear about the efforts to keep media out:

    BBB Stadium, the consortium that oversaw construction of Investors Group Field, has given few details on what exactly is damaged or how much it'll cost to repair the rooms.

    The Blue Bombers organization has denied media access to the damaged spaces, turning down a second request by CBC News on Wednesday morning.

    Katz said that shouldn't be happening in a facility that was built with taxpayers' money.

    "As the mayor I'm very disappointed to hear that. Very disappointed to hear that," he said. "The realities are [that] this is a, in my mind, a public facility."

    However, provincial sports minister Ron Lemieux said while he also considers the building a public facility, he's not going to try and force the Bombers to let media in given ongoing construction efforts. Those were cited by stadium management firm BBB Stadium in a statement Wednesday. Via Metro Winnipeg:

    Read More »from Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz calls for public to see flooding damage at Investors Group Field
  • The CFL's history of providing opportunities for black players who were discriminated against in American football is one of the most interesting elements of the league, and it's the focus of a new documentary set to air on TSN this fall—if enough people back it. Filmmaker William Armstrong spoke to 55-Yard Line last week about the project, titled Gridiron Underground. Armstrong, president of Strongwall Productions, said there's a compelling story here, and one that goes beyond just sports.

    "It's an hour-long documentary about the waves of African-Americans who came to Canada to play in the CFL," he said. "Canadians really opened their arms to them, and the legacy of African-Americans in the CFL is huge. ...Football and sport in general is its mode of transport, but the story is a more general one of perseverance and hope."

    You can see an impressive trailer Armstrong's put together for the project here, complete with snippets of interviews with Warren Moon, Henry Burris and Bernie Custis:

    Perseverance and hope describes the project to date, too. Armstrong has been working on this for several years, and that involved plenty of cross-continent trips to track down former players and interview them, but he accomplished that without major funding.

    "Out of my own pocket and money I've raised, we've been travelling all around North America for the past few years," Armstrong said. "We've been working on it for three or four years now."

    Read More »from Interview: Filmmaker William Armstrong turns to crowdfunding to finish Gridiron Underground, a documentary on black players in the CFL

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