Andrew Bucholtz

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

  • Mid-air contact that might lead to PI, like this 2010 collision, could be reviewable soon.One of the most common complaints about officiating at any level of football is about the inconsistency of pass interference calls, but the CFL is looking to change that. The league's rules committee is set to meet Thursday to discuss rule changes for the 2014 season, and among the proposals they'll be voting on is one that would see coaches be able to challenge both called and non-called pass interference penalties under certain conditions, prompting a video review from the league's command centre. The inconsistency of pass interference calls and non-calls have long been questioned and complained about by players, coaches and fans of football at all levels, but this is one of the first attempts to actually change how the penalty is assessed. As noted in the league's release about the proposed new rules, this would make the CFL the first football league to make pass interference reviewable:

    Under a proposal to be voted on Thursday evening by the league’s Rules Committee, coaches would be allowed to challenge both called and potential defensive pass interference fouls under certain conditions.

    If it passes, the CFL could become the first football league to subject pass interference to video review.

    “This is more than innovative. In the world of officiating, for all sports, it’s revolutionary,” said Glenn Johnson, the CFL’s Vice-President of Officiating.

    “Leagues have been reluctant to subject ‘judgment calls’ to video review, and pass interference in football is the ultimate ‘judgment call”, because it involves so many subjective elements. It will be interesting to see if the Committee approves it, and whether our Board of Governors, which is our ultimate authority on rules, also ratifies it.”

    Under the proposal, a team would be able use any and all of its Coaches’ Challenges to challenge a called or potential pass interference foul up to the final three minutes of a game. In the final three minutes of a game, and overtime, a team could only challenge such a call or non-call one time, and only if it still has an unused challenge and a timeout remaining.

    While some will undoubtedly question making judgement calls reviewable, there's potential in this plan because pass interference isn't completely subjective. (If it was, this would only mean transferring the burden of the final judgement call from the on-field officials to the command centre.) Some of the existing uncertainty and subjectivity with pass interference calls is certainly due to different officials' perspectives on how it should be called, but a lot of it is thanks to incomplete information. Contact between receivers and defensive backs can happen from a variety of angles, but each particular on-field official only sees it from one angle, and seeing it live means they only get a brief glimpse of what happened. Meanwhile, viewers at home often have a better look at the situation thanks to the availability of slow-motion replays from multiple angles on the TV feed.

    Read More »from CFL could make history by allowing pass interference calls to be subject to video review
  • Kory Sheets is still in Saskatchewan, working in the oil industry.Offseason jobs are common for CFL players given the league's relatively-low salaries; some players even have held down alternate jobs during the season. It's much more unusual to see NFL players working in another field during the offseason given that league's higher salaries and expanded organized team activities, but Kory Sheets is proving that some do. The reigning Grey Cup MVP may have left the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders for the NFL's Oakland Raiders this offseason, but he's still in Saskatchewan for the moment working for a trucking company involved with the oil industry. From CJME 980's Green Zone Football:

    Read More »from Despite signing an NFL deal, Kory Sheets is still working an offseason oil job in Saskatchewan
  • Corey Chamblin signs a contract extension, keeping him with the Riders through 2017

    Corey Chamblin signed an extension that should see him coach the Riders through 2017.Corey Chamblin's had a pretty great few months. After leading the Saskatchewan Roughriders to a hometown Grey Cup win in November, he was named the CFL's Coach of the Year in February. Now, the Riders have given him a long-term contract extension. The deal, officially announced Thursday afternoon, runs through 2017 and should ensure that Chamblin's leading the green-and-white for a while. There could be tough times ahead given the team's offseason losses and the pressure on the defending champions, though, so it will be interesting to see if Chamblin can help keep the Roughriders near the top of the league or if they'll fall back to the pack.

    The coaching job Chamblin did in 2013 was certainly impressive. He worked to integrate sometimes-troublesome CFL veterans like Dwight Anderson and make them valuable additions to the Saskatchewan lineup while also continuing to develop the team's youth and keeping long-time Riders like Darian Durant involved and effective. Another element of his work that shone was his willingness to be unconventional and work with his coordinators to go with outside-the-box strategies that maximized the team's talent, such as featuring the ground game (led by star running back Kory Sheets) much more heavily than any other CFL team had done in decades, starting Canadian Mike McCullough at middle linebacker and moving Canadian Craig Butler around between the linebacking corps and the secondary. Overall, he displayed plenty of leadership and innovation, and that turned out to be crucial.

    Read More »from Corey Chamblin signs a contract extension, keeping him with the Riders through 2017
  • CFL commisioner Mark Cohon (L) and CFLPA president Mike Morreale (R) are key to the CBA negotiations.The CFL and the CFL Players' Association appear to be deadlocked on the latest round of CBA negotiations, with the sides calling off a planned second day of meetings earlier this month and reportedly cancelling meetings set for March 20 and 21. By itself, that would be concerning, but not necessarily a massive problem; after all, the last CBA wound up being signed just before the season started in June 2010. What's more troubling is what the sides are divided on. According to Sportsnet's Arash Madani, the key argument is whether or not players should get a percentage of league revenues or a flat amount of money regardless of what the league brings in, and there's no common ground to be found:

    “We get the feeling the league and owners believe we’re weak. They’re sorely mistaken,” said a CFL player close to the negotiations. “This is the time guys will take a stand. We’ve never been in this position before with new stadiums, a new team and a new, rich TV deal. Until they’re willing to negotiate a model of revenue sharing, we’re not backing down.”

    Revenue sharing in the CFL was eliminated in the last CBA, which the players union says it agreed to “for the betterment of the league, because of where we were economically.”

    This time around, “we’re in a very different place,” said a union rep. ...

    A source close to the negotiations said the league has proposed an eight-year collective bargaining agreement – which would exceed the length of the new television deal (five years, plus a network option for the sixth) – a primary revenue source in CFL business.

    “That eight-year proposal is ridiculous,” said a team union rep. “The rest of their proposal – All the (league) did was follow the same model as before, with some minor salary cap increases of $100,000 a year.”

    That's a fundamental philosophical divide, and it's difficult to see how it can be resolved, especially with the sides not talking. If this was merely about debating what a flat cap number should be or what percentage of revenues players should get, negotiations would be relatively simple and probably wind up somewhere between the sides' starting positions, but a divide like this may be much more difficult to overcome. Compare the 2004-05 and 2012-13 NHL lockouts, for example; the former was about whether there should be a salary cap at all (and wound up cancelling a whole season), while the latter was an argument over what the cap should be set at and how much of league revenues should go to players (and was resolved in time to play a shortened season). Without being at the negotiation table, it's impossible to tell exactly how things will play out, but if both the CFL and the CFLPA are entrenched in their respective positions, it seems unlikely we'll see a deal any time soon.

    Read More »from CFL-CFLPA ‘impasse’ appears to be mostly about players’ inclusion in league revenues
  • Brian McKeever overcomes fall to win his second gold of these Paralympics in 1km sprint

    Canadian Paralympian Brian McKeever overcame a fall to win gold Wednesday.One fall usually ends your hopes of a medal, but not if you're Brian McKeever. The Canadian cross-country skier crashed 200 metres into the one-kilometre final of the men's visually impaired sprint Wednesday when a Russian competitor stepped on his pole, but managed to get back up again, caught up to the pack over the remaining four-fifths of the race with the help of guide Graham Nishikawa, and wound up finishing first, earning his second gold in Sochi and his 12th Paralympic medal overall. Here's video of his incredible race:

    That's just amazing to watch, especially in such a short race where many likely would have been knocked out of contention completely by a fall. McKeever told The Canadian Press that he never considered giving up after the fall, though:

    "It wouldn't be right for me to tell you what I said in my head, but once the cuss words were out, the only thing you can do is get back up and race," said McKeever. "I thought we were clear, but that is normal and it happens in sprinting when you are all fighting and tight. Everyone is going flat out. It is intense and everyone is at their limit. We are just fortunate it happened in the first 200 metres and not at the end so we had time to catch up."

    Read More »from Brian McKeever overcomes fall to win his second gold of these Paralympics in 1km sprint
  • New Argo Robert Gill tried out with the NFL's Arizona Cardinals in 2013.Speed is always helpful to have in the CFL, and the Toronto Argonauts appear to have found some with one of their newest signings, former NCAA track and field athlete Robert Gill. Gill played basketball and ran track in college at Division I Texas State, but has been playing football as a receiver/returner since, competing in arena football from 2008-2013 and attending the NFL's Arizona Cardinals' training camp in 2013. That's where he made one of his most memorable impacts, as the Argos' Twitter feed noted following his signing:

    Here's the video they're referencing, of Gill managing to keep up (for a few seconds) on a treadmill set to 25 miles per hour during the Cardinals' training camp:

    That's pretty impressive. Gill has shown good speed in activities more closely related to football as well, recording a stunning 40-yard-dash time of 4.19 seconds back in 2008. While the 40 isn't everything, it can be awfully important. Gill's track success (he went from lightly recruited in that sport to a one of the top 400m runners in Division I) speaks well for his work ethic, too, and he's also earned raves about his speed and ability from scouts. as shown in this 2013 piece from the Cardinals' website:

    Read More »from Video: One of the Argos’ newest signings can keep up on a treadmill going 25 miles-per-hour
  • Khalif Mitchell (96) has brought down plenty of CFL QBs, including Tanner Marsh.The Toronto Argonauts have released numerous players this offseason, but many of those moves haven't been about players underperforming, making too much money or not fitting into the team's future plans, reasons typically cited for releases. Instead, most of the Argonauts' releases have been to let players go try the NFL, and that appears to be what's behind their surprising release of defensive tackle Khalif Mitchell Monday. Mitchell has created controversies before with racist tweets, rough on-field play and temporary trade refusals, but a league source told The Canadian Press this release wasn't about any of that, but rather to let him test the NFL waters. If so, that would make him the fourth Argonaut released to try the NFL this offseason, following receiver Dontrelle Inman (who wound up with the Chargers), defensive back Neiko Thorpe (who went to the Raiders) and linebacker Marcus Ball (who hasn't been signed yet). The key questions now are if this move will work out for Mitchell and if this approach will benefit the Argonauts in the long run.

    Read More »from Argos release all-star DT Khalif Mitchell, reportedly to let him pursue NFL opportunities
  • MLSE showed off this diagram this week of a CFL configuration for an expanded BMO Field.It looks like the Toronto Argonauts will soon have a new home—and that they will indeed be sharing it with Toronto FC. When the idea of the Argos joining TFC at BMO Field first came up in the discussions about the team having to vacate the Rogers Centre by 2017 so the Blue Jays can install real grass, it seemed unlikely for a host of reasons, but TFC owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment unveiled expansion images this week that included a CFL configuration, while the Exhibition Place board voted Friday to allow a BMO Field expansion. MLSE (which has been repeatedly named as a potential Argonauts buyer) seems set to let the team play at BMO Field, and the city is reportedly pushing heavily for them to be included in the expansion. Toronto deputy mayor Norm Kelly made that explicitly clear in a tweet he sent out after the meeting Friday:

    While the Argos have needed a new home for ages (the Rogers Centre isn't a great football venue under any circumstances, but the real problem with it is that the team receives bottom-of-the-barrel scheduling priority there, leading to things like them not being able to host Labour Day games and having to play in the middle of the week), they've faced significant hurdles getting there. There were discussions about putting them in BMO Field along with TFC ahead of its 2007 construction, but those talks fell apart and it was built as a soccer-specific stadium. The team also tried to get in on the 2007 construction of the University of Toronto's new Varsity Stadium, but academic and neighbourhood opposition led to that plan falling apart. Since then, a variety of plans have been proposed, but none had advanced too far until now, and this one may not be all settled just yet.

    It's particularly remarkable that it's the BMO Field plan that seems to have come through, as that looked like a highly-improbable option at first. Part of that was because the stadium is too small for a CFL field without extensive renovations, but it seems the money's been found for that. It also looks like they've figured out a way to expand the stadium to accommodate a CFL field while keeping soccer supporters behind the goals close to the action, thanks to removable stands that can be put in for soccer and taken out for football. However, the surface issues are more concerning. Natural grass was put in in 2010, which is ideal for soccer but can't easily be shared between soccer and football. That's what's led to a lot of pushback from soccer fans on this front, as they don't want to lose the grass surface.

    Read More »from Exhibition Place board votes to expand BMO Field, but hurdles may still remain for the Argos
  • Big questions surround each of the three Canadian MLS teams as the season gets underway

    Camilo's departure leaves the Whitecaps with a big hole up front.The Major League Soccer season begins Saturday, and all three Canadian teams should be in for an interesting campaign. The league's website's preseason power rankings aren't very high on the prospects of the Vancouver Whitecaps, Toronto FC or the Montreal Impact, ranking them 10th, 14th and 19th (out of 19 teams) respectively, and that's annoyed players in Montreal in particular. Each of those teams does face substantial questions, though, and there's also an overarching question about MLS in Canada; the league has decided to lock out its referees, and while that carries questions in the U.S. about how well replacement refs will do (as we saw with the NFL, there may be a notable drop-off), in Canada it raises questions about if replacement officials will even be allowed to work games north of the border given Canadian labour codes' stricter rules on replacement workers. Presuming that gets sorted out, though, there are still plenty of on-pitch issues around each Canadian side this year. Here's a key question each team will have to answer, in order of those power rankings' projected finishes.

    Read More »from Big questions surround each of the three Canadian MLS teams as the season gets underway
  • Kevin Glenn officially asks the Redblacks for a trade: where could he wind up?

    Kevin Glenn is likely on the move again after asking for a trade from Ottawa.It's been a roller-coaster year for Kevin Glenn. The veteran CFL quarterback started 2013 as a backup to Drew Tate in Calgary, but took over the starting job when Tate went down with an injury, started most of the Stampeders' games en route to their league-best 14-4 record and was even the starter in their final game of the year (their West Final loss to Saskatchewan). Despite all that, he was left unprotected in the expansion draft and was claimed by Ottawa. Glenn embraced the change at first, figuring it gave him a chance to be the starter for that new team, but the Redblacks later picked up Henry Burris in free agency and named him the starter. Now, Glenn wants out of Ottawa; he said Thursday that he asked the team to release him, and when they declined, he asked for a trade. The key question now is where he'll land.

    Glenn has been quoted as saying he"believes he can be a starter in the CFL and has earned the right to at least compete for the No. 1 job with another team," and there are reasons to support that. He's largely been Calgary's starter for the past two seasons thanks to Tate's injuries, and the Stamps have gone 20-8 with him starting. His numbers in recent years have been impressive, too; 2012 saw him throw for 4,220 yards with a 66.7 per cent completion rate and 25 touchdowns against 16 interceptions (a TD/INT ratio of 1.56), while he put up 2,710 passing yards with a 66.6 per cent completion rate and 18 touchdowns against seven interceptions (a TD/INT ratio of 2.57) last season. Moreover, Glenn's found a great deal of success over his 13 seasons in the CFL with Saskatchewan, Winnipeg, Hamilton and Calgary, and he's eighth all-time in completions and 10th all-time in yards. When a quarterback has put up those kinds of career numbers while showing good form recently, it's easy to understand why he feels he should be able to at least compete for a starting job.

    Read More »from Kevin Glenn officially asks the Redblacks for a trade: where could he wind up?

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