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  • Brendan Taman will be running the Roughriders through 2013 if all goes well.

    What's most interesting about the Saskatchewan Roughriders' decision to extend general manager Brendan Taman's contract through the 2013 season is that they haven't yet seen the results of what he can do as the unquestioned personnel boss. Taman's been with the team since 2009, of course, but as Dave Naylor points out, he didn't have full authority over personnel decisions until after Ken Miller stepped down at the end of the 2011 campaign. Taman, Miller and Joe Womack (now with Hamilton) combined to run the Riders' operations day-to-day in 2009 while then-GM Eric Tillman was still on paid administrative leave, but Tillman's presence was still very much felt, while 2010 saw divided power between Miller and Taman and 2011 saw Miller's promotion over Taman (to the unusual role of vice-president of football operations, creating a leadership controversy that may have been part of the team's 2011 struggles). Thus, a Saskatchewan team solely put together by Taman hasn't yet played a single game, so it's notable that the Riders' leadership has already determined him worthy of an extension. However, that isn't necessarily a bad move.

    Read More »from Riders decide to extend Brendan Taman’s contract before his work can really be tested
  • CFL Football '99 was the last CFL video game released.

    One of the most interesting elements of the NFL's rise from prominence to dominance over the last few decades has been the accompanying trend in the video game market; each instalment in Electronics Arts' Madden franchise tends to be one of the top-selling games in any category each year, even when factors like an NFL lockout intervene. Despite widespread interest, though, there hasn't been a three-down football video game made since CFL Football '99 (pictured above). That changed in a notable way this week, as Kotaku's Owen Good reported that Madden's developers have actually made a working CFL version internally. However, EA's general manager of the American football division, Cam Weber (who happens to be Canadian), told Good that they won't be releasing the game and they have no plans to enter the CFL market at this time (although Weber has had "multiple conversations" with CFL commissioner Mark Cohon). This is an unfortunate move on EA's part, and it defies business sense; there's a strong case to be made that even an incredibly basic three-down football video game would be tremendously beneficial for EA, Madden and the CFL.

    Read More »from Madden’s developers have built a CFL video game, but they won’t release it
  • Tyler Scott makes a catch against Hamilton's Ryan Hinds in 2011.

    Training-camp practices may not have as much contact as games, but they can still have scary moments for the players involved. One of those came at the Edmonton Eskimos' practice Friday morning, as receiver Tyler Scott collided in mid-air with defensive back Rico Murray and landed awkwardly on his collarbone, with Murray falling on top of him. Scott was immediately attended to by trainers, but stayed on the ground without moving much for 45 minutes before leaving in an ambulance. As Eskimos' head coach Kavis Reed told Chris O'Leary of The Edmonton Journal, the focus was on keeping Scott still until the ambulance arrived:

    "Whenever we're dealing with something upper body, it's standard protocol that you're not going to move (him) suddenly," said Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed. "You're going to take every precaution and make certain that once he gets to the hospital, everything is stabilized and they have an opportunity to give him X-rays or whatever is necessary. Tyler had most of his

    Read More »from Eskimos’ receiver Tyler Scott taken to hospital following frightening collision
  • Ron Joyce Stadium in Hamilton has about 6,000 permanent seats

    The truth is usually in the middle. One larger truth within the story of McMaster University telling the Hamilton Tiger-Cats they cannot use Ron Joyce Stadium in 2013 is that, really, a institution of higher education isn't supposed to be in the business of staging of professional football games, especially when it may disrupt campus life.

    At that same time, when the decision involves McMaster athletics and recreation director Jeff Giles, who had a stormy tenure as CFL commissioner about a decade ago, it comes off as Canadians eating their own. There is no ideal solution for the Ticats' 2013 home stadium drama, but on some level it's a shame the team won't play a single game in the city it's called home for generations.

    That being said, McMaster had a somewhat valid explanation, as Steve Milton explained:

    After consultation with stakeholders, including students, neighbours and Hamilton Health Sciences, the university decided that having Ron Joyce Stadium host Ticats games wasn't feasible. Chief among the concerns raised, [McMaster vice-president Andrea] Farquhar said, was traffic congestion and the possibility that patient and ambulance access to the hospital could be impeded.

    The impact on the more than 10,000 students attending summer classes and noise from game day activities in a residential area were also factors, Farquhar said. She noted to increase seating capacity to 15,000 from 5,500 would have involved temporary stands on three sides of Ron Joyce Stadium and the closure of Michell Crescent for three months.

    Read More »from Hamilton Tiger-Cats will hit the road in 2013 after McMaster (and Jeff Giles) nix Ron Joyce Stadium plan
  • Ottawa Gee-Gees coach Gary Etcheverry, with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2009

    Talking with Gary Etcheverry makes it tougher to view the Ottawa Gee-Gees as a CIS program at a crossroads.

    If football in the nation's capital during this off-season could be summed up in a word, it's upheaval. Ottawa has a conditional CFL franchise set to begin play in a couple years' time at a renovated Lansdowne Park. At the CIS level, the revived Carleton Ravens made a big splash by hiring head coach Steve Sumurah away from long-time power Saint Mary's and adding two coaches from the cross-town Gee-Gees. That created the vacancy that gave Etcheverry — sometimes polarizing but never dull when he oversaw defences which helped the Saskatchewan Roughriders to successive Grey Cup berths in 2009-10 — his long-awaited shot at coaching collegiately in Canada. It figures: a unique veteran of the coaching ranks dropped into a unique situation where the new kids seem to be getting more buzz than the established team.

    "It'll be fun, it'll be great," Etcheverry said Thursday when asked about partaking in the Panda Game rivalry come 2013. "I know most of the coaches, they certainly know me. Some of the best players I coached in the CFL were on the last Carleton team. [Former CFL defensive lineman] Cameron Legault and [linebacker] Jason Kralt were on the Ravens' last team. They were two of my favourite players that I coached in the CFL so there's a bit of irony there.

    "Stuff like that is more for the fans and media, which is great. It adds to the flavour of the rivalry."

    "I think the sky's the limit for us," Etcheverry added. "We have great players, great attitude, very strong coaching staff thus far, we're going to add a few more. I'm excited."

    The Gee-Gees have thrived since the nation's capital became a one-team town after the original Ravens folded in 1999. They won the Vanier Cup under Marcel Bellefeuille in 2000 and had a superb run from 2005-10, going at least 6-2 or either making the Yates Cup final each season. Current Calgary Stampeders backup QB Brad Sinopoli also won the Hec Crighton Trophy in 2010 as CIS' top player.

    Carleton's return and adoption of Laval's private funding model for football, with alumni such as well-known Ottawa developer John Ruddy ponying up for the program, have created a lot of curiosity about how fast the Ravens will rise when they begin OUA play in 2013. Meantime, the Gee-Gees not only lost coaches to the new guys, but their 5-3 finish and first-round playoff loss to Windsor was below their recent standard.

    "It's easy to sit at home and do a lot of talking when you're not going to play for a year," Ottawa defensive coordinator Cory McDiarmid said of Carleton. "So they can say whatever they say. To me it's a non-factor. The people who have gone over there are friends of mine.

    "To me it's good ribbing, in jest or what-not ... it's like me saying I'm going to win the 6/49 this weekend. Let's see if I do. They have strong support, they have good coaches, and they'll hire some more good coaches. It'll be great for Ottawa. But I don't want to beat Carleton any more than any other team. It just so happens Carleton is in the same city."

    Read More »from CIS Corner: Former CFL head coach Gary Etcheverry takes over Ottawa Gee-Gees at critical juncture
  • Martell Mallett, seen taking a 2009 handoff from Buck Pierce, will miss this season.

    We haven't even made it to the preseason yet, but the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' fortunes may have already taken a significant turn for the worse. As Drew Edwards reports, key offseason acquisition Martell Mallett tore his Achilles tendon in practice and will be gone for the season. That leaves the Tiger-Cats with a massive void to fill at running back, and not a lot of easy answers. There wasn't a lot of experience behind Mallett heading into training camp, as Avon Cobourne was cut following the Mallett signing and promising up-and-comer Terry Grant will miss much of this year thanks to breaking three bones in a game last year. It's possible the Tiger-Cats could bring Cobourne back (the belief in this corner was that they shouldn't have cut him) or sign former Calgary RB Joffrey Reynolds, but they won't necessarily be able to land either, and neither would be a sure producer. They could also gamble on using a rookie, but that carries risks as well as potential rewards. This isn't necessarily something that will doom the Tiger-Cats, but it's certainly going to make their lives more difficult.

    Read More »from Martell Mallett tears his Achilles tendon, sparking a RB dilemma in Hamilton
  • CIS and CSIS teamed up at the 2011 Vanier Cup, and it apparently didn't go well.

    Quick, what do you get if you mix two lesser-known Canadian organizations starting with "C"? You get spy agency CSIS (the governmental Canadian Security Intelligence Service) advertising with Canadian Interuniversity Sport, apparently, and being unhappy with the results, particularly fans' confusion of the two organizations following a tent-sharing agreement. Still, apart from all the obvious jokes ('Which organization's more well-known?' 'Will CIS use CSIS background checks when hiring a new CEO?' 'Why can't the CBC make a satirical comedy about Canadian university sports?' 'If CFL teams won't give Kyle Quinlan a job, will he follow Peyton Hillis and try to land intelligence work?') and the tone-deaf nature of the one part of the deal CSIS was reportedly happy with (the infamously threatening ads on the big video screen during the Vanier Cup), there are some legitimate questions arising from Bob Mackin's report on CSIS' dissatisfaction. Most importantly, does having so many issues arise with a major sponsor of the game suggest that CIS needs to do parts of the Vanier Cup differently?

    It's clear that the CSIS-CIS pairing certainly didn't work out as the government organization had hoped. Whether that's the fault of CIS or CSIS itself is up for debate, but Mackin's piece includes several comments from CSIS employees in their post-event report, and those are anything but encouraging for the university organization. Here are some of the highlights:

    Read More »from CIS Corner: The CSIS file suggests deeper organizational problems with the Vanier Cup
  • Jerome Messam left in his NFL option year, but that option's removal may reduce the CFL talent pool.

    June 2010 saw the CFL and its players' association sign a new four-year collective bargaining agreement only days before the start of the season. That deal brought in several highly-publicized changes, including the revamping of the distribution of revenue between players and teams, the boosting of minimum salaries and pension-plan contributions, the creation of a drug-testing policy and the allowance of voluntary off-season workout camps for veterans. However, one of the more under-the-radar changes has had one of the largest impacts on the league, and it hasn't all been positive. Two years in, here's a look at what the elimination of the NFL option year has meant for the CFL.

    Simply put, the option year was a frequent clause in contracts that gave players an early out if the NFL came calling. It's understandable why CFL executives wanted to get rid of it; at the time of the 2010 negotiations, the league had seen several prominent players depart for the NFL after just one CFL season, including 2009 Most Outstanding Rookie Martell Mallett and 2008 B.C. Lions' star Stefan Logan. Knocking out the option year meant that CFL teams would have players for at least two years, and in many quarters, that was seen as a desirable goal. The move's had some unintended consequences, though, and it's drawn substantial criticism from everyone from Wally Buono to Arash Madani.

    Read More »from Two years in, how’s the CBA decision to eliminate the NFL option year working out?
  • Noah Cantor's found success in the burger world since leaving the CFL.

    An important storyline in the NFL recently has been the difficulties many players have faced adjusting to life after football, and that's taken on even more importance following Junior Seau's death (which has intensified a number of debates). While a lot of the focus has been on improving player safety and concussion education (with good reason), the inability of many NFL players to adjustment to post-football life has also hit the spotlight; stories of players like George Koonze, Mark Brunell, Warren Sapp and others struggling with debt, depression and aimlessness have become common. However, north of the border, we're instead seeing plenty of stories of former CFL players who have thrived after hanging up their cleats. One of the most interesting is that of former B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts' defensive tackle Noah Cantor, who's built a massively successful burger chain and is now serving as a guest coach at the Lions' training camp for a change of pace. Here's part of what Cantor told Mike Beamish of The Vancouver Sun:

    "I'm using this experience to see if coaching is for me," he said. "I guess I wouldn't be the first restaurateur/football coach. Vera's is still my main focus. I don't know if I'll have the time to commit to this, but it's definitely a feeling-out process."

    And it's a cliché, but true, Cantor said, that beef—whether it's gloriously transmuted into a better tasting burger, or stuffing a goal-line plunge at the line of scrimmage—operates in a parallel universe of collision and commerce.

    "Coaching is about helping young kids get to a certain level and win," he said. "Business is the same thing. We want to win in business, by making sure our people work hard and achieve our goals. You can find similarities on both sides. You can use football examples to help in business. And you can use business examples to help in football."

    It's not surprising to see former players interested in coaching, but what's so notable about Cantor is that he's already built an off-field empire. Vera's Burger Shack, the chain Cantor's been involved with since 2001 (five years before he hung up his cleats to work full-time in the burger business), has expanded to 15 B.C. locations and one out in Ottawa. They're also opening two more this summer (and their burgers are highly recommended by this corner). That's a pretty good record of success.

    Read More »from Noah Cantor’s success off the field after his CFL career is no anomaly
  • Australian punter Scott Crough is trying to catch on with Calgary.The CFL has two unusual non-imports in training camps this season, and they come from the land down under. Both have played Australian rules football, but they're new to the Canadian game and will be trying to catch on as punters at first. 31-year-old Scott Crough is in camp with the Calgary Stampeders, while 27-year-old Josh Bartel is with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. It's going to be interesting to watch the duo compete, both from a perspective of their stories and from a perspective of what this means for Canadian talent.

    First, let's take a look at Crough. He's played in the second tier of the Australian league, but never became a full-fledged pro there (unlike older brother Justin) thanks to his desire to pursue a career as a painter. He's been investigating options overseas, though, and after failing to catch on with the NFL, worked out for Calgary coaches last August. They liked what they saw enough to add him to their negotiation list, and as Allen Cameron reports, Crough made a crucial purchase before heading home:

    Of all the purchases made at the McMahon Stadium Stamps' Store in 2011, Scott Crough's might have been the most significant.

    The Australian punter visited Calgary last August for an informal workout for Stampeder coaches, who evidently liked what they saw from the former Aussie Rules player because they told him they planned to add the lanky 31-year-old to their negotiation list. Until then, all of Crough's training to be the rare overseas product to make it in our style of football had been with an NFL football, and he recognized there are some subtle, but important, differences in the two balls. So, after the workout, he walked to the Stamps' Store and bought an official CFL football to take home to Australia.

    "I thought, well, I have to bring one of these things home with me if they're going to put me on their negotiation list," recalled Crough on Wednesday, his final day of preparation before officially beginning life as a Stampeder with this morning's opening session of rookie camp (10 a.m., McMahon Stadium). "The team sent me some more (after signing him in February), but I wore that first one out. I would have to kick the ball and run after it, because I didn't want to confuse myself by kicking with different footballs."

    Crough is in a battle with Rob Maver for the team's punting slot, and he seems to be performing pretty well thus far. As Ian Busby relates, though, Canada requires him to make numerous adjustments both on and off the field

    Read More »from Australian punters Scott Crough and Josh Bartel invade the CFL

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