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  • Scott Flory(seen with the 2009 top offensive lineman award) is running for CFLPA president.For one of the first times since the Las Vegas Posse folded in 1994, something that happens in Vegas could have a critical impact on the CFL. The CFL Players' Association is conducting its annual meetings in Vegas this week, and those meetings are likely to determine how the CFLPA proceeds in this latest round of contentious collective bargaining negotiations with the CFL. As Drew Edwards of The Hamilton Spectator writes, those meetings could even see a change in CFLPA leadership:

    With contentious negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement on the horizon, there is a major power battle taking place among the leadership of the CFL player's association. The CFLPA has been meeting in Las Vegas since Wednesday and a vote is scheduled on Friday that could see the ouster of current president and former Hamilton Tiger-Cat Mike Morreale.

    Morreale took over from former president Stu Laird in 2012 after Laird enjoyed a 12-year run as the head of the organization. A former defensive lineman with the Calgary Stampeders, Laird played 13 seasons in the CFL.

    Morreale is being opposed by current Montreal Alouettes offensive Scott Flory. More than a dozen players reps are scheduled to vote on all executive positions on Friday.

    It's difficult to tell how Flory's approach would differ from Morreale's, as their platforms aren't public. However, regardless of who wins, the vote on executive positions is likely going to determine how the CFLPA approaches negotiations going forward. The candidates will offer their plans, and whichever one is endorsed by the majority of player reps will then have a mandate to carry out negotiations in that fashion. If Morreale keeps his position, that might suggest players are happy with the stance the CFLPA's taken thus far, insisting on getting a percentage of league revenues rather than a flat salary cap and breaking off negotiations when that wasn't offered. If Flory takes over, though, that could signal a shift either towards a more conciliatory approach (getting back to the table and agreeing on a flat cap, just debating what it should be set at) or a more hard-line one (upping the players' demands and perhaps even threatening a strike).

    Read More »from Friday’s vote could decide CFLPA leadership, prove crucial in CBA talks
  • Can Pat White translate the success he found at West Virginia to the CFL?Thursday's news that former NCAA star quarterback Pat White has signed with the Edmonton Eskimos is certainly intriguing, as he's anything but your prototypical CFL quarterback. White threw for 6,049 yards over four years at West Virginia from 2005-2008 (with an impressive 64.8 per cent completion mark), but was perhaps even more prominent for the rushing ability that saw him rack up 4,480 yards during that span. Miami took him in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft, and while his career never really took off south of the border (the Dolphins cut him in 2010, which led him to a brief UFL stint in 2011; he was then out of pro football for two years before a preseason stint with Washington last season), he has an interesting mix of skills that could potentially help him succeed in Canada. The key question is if there's a fit for a running quarterback in today's CFL, though.

    The ability to pick up yards on the ground has been crucial for a lot of great CFL quarterbacks over the years, including Damon Allen (11,920 career rushing yards) , Tracy Ham (8,043) and Kerry Joseph (4,470). However, the league hasn't seen nearly as much rushing from quarterbacks in recent years, with most teams focusing on pocket passing rather than scrambling. Last season saw only one quarterback record over 500 rushing yards, and only two others record over 300. White may have found the right destination, though, as the Eskimos were more willing than most to let their quarterback run last year; Mike Reilly led the league's pivots with 709 rushing yards.

    Read More »from Can Pat White replicate his NCAA success in Edmonton, or will he be another big-name flop?
  • Bills' owner Ralph Wilson (seen in 2009) passed away Tuesday at the age of 95.The news of Buffalo Bills' owner Ralph Wilson's death at the age of 95 Tuesday has sparked plenty of tributes to him, and deservedly so. Wilson founded the team in 1959, saw them through the AFL years, the AFL-NFL merger and everything since, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009. His death also leaves notable questions about what's next for the Bills, though, and those questions could have significant repercussions for Toronto, the Argonauts and the entire CFL, so they should be addressed.

    There's plenty of uncertainty about just what will happen next with the Bills, as Wilson never publicly revealed a succession plan. There have been strong indications that Wilson planned to have the team sold following his passing rather than directly passed on to his heirs, though, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stating that in 2012. Now, a sale doesn't necessarily mean that the team will move; Goodell and other NFL officials have said they'd like to see the Bills stay in Western New York, and the 10-year stadium lease/renovation agreement the team signed in 2012 imposes a stiff $400 million penalty if the team tries to leave before 2020. However, with Wilson's death, one of the main reasons the Bills stayed in a small television market (the U.S.' 56th largest as of that 2012 story) with limited potential revenue is gone. Wilson was always committed to keeping the team in Buffalo; whoever the next owner is may not share that philosophy.

    Read More »from What could Ralph Wilson’s passing mean for the Bills, the Argonauts and the CFL?
  • Winnipeg's Investors Group Field appears set to be awarded the 2015 Grey Cup.It looks like the 2015 Grey Cup will be headed to Winnipeg. Gary Lawless of The Winnipeg Free Press reported Monday that CFL commissioner Mark Cohon will be in town Wednesday to make the official announcement, and Paul Friesen of The Winnipeg Sun received confirmation of the move from a CFL source. According to Lawless, the plan is to expand Investors Group Field from 33,422 to 40,000 seats for the Grey Cup, and then leave those seats in place so the NHL's Winnipeg Jets could host an outdoor game in early 2016:

    After the Grey Cup is made official, the next step will be the official announcement of the NHL bringing its Heritage Classic outdoor game to Winnipeg in late February or early March of 2016.

    The Jets have been told they will host an outdoor game and have told the NHL they want to play in 2016. An official announcement is expected this summer.

    The plan is for the Bombers to erect temporary seating to boost capacity at IGF to 40,000 from 33,000 for the Banjo Bowl in the 2015 regular season and then keep those stands in place for the Grey Cup and then hand over the stadium to the NHL for the Heritage Classic.

    It was initially expected that Winnipeg would get the 2014 Grey Cup following the construction of the Blue Bombers' new stadium (which opened at the start of last season), but that was given to B.C. instead in an unusual move. Part of the reason why may have been issues with the press box, which was left exposed to the open air, fine during summer games but problematic during the fall. The league told the Bombers last June that would have to be addressed before the stadium could host a Grey Cup. While the press box hasn't been enclosed yet, Friesen writes that work on that project is set to start this week:

    Read More »from Winnipeg to officially get 2015 Grey Cup Wednesday, according to media reports
  • York defensive lineman James Tuck shone in the broad jump this weekend.The 2014 national CFL Combine wrapped up Sunday, and as usual, there were plenty of notable results from the testing. Several players already in the league scouting bureau's rankings did well, including #2 Pierre Lavertu (the Laval offensive lineman finished second with 32 bench press reps), #3 David Foucault (the Montreal offensive linemen led all players with 33 bench press reps and also led his position group in the vertical jump while finishing second amongst offensive linemen in the 40-yard dash), #8 Andrew Lue (the Queen's defensive back led all players in the broad jump while placing second in the three-cone drill and tying for fifth in the vertical jump), #13 Adam Thibault (the Laval DB posted the best time in both the 40 and the shuttle run and finished third in the vertical jump) and #15 Dylan Ainsworth (the Western defensive lineman posted the best broad jump at his position, the third-best one overall, and also led his position group with a 4.697-second 40 time). All of those guys should have at least maintained, if not improved, their standing ahead of the May 13 draft. The showings from less-heralded players may be even more notable, though, as some non-ranked prospects who weren't even invited initially may have worked their way up into high draft consideration after what they did this weekend.

    Read More »from 2014 CFL combine sees plenty of regional combine players improve their stock
  • CFL VP-officiating (and former ref) Glen Johnson helped propose reviewing PI calls.The CFL is one step closer to making history, as the league's rules committee endorsed the idea of making pass interference a challengeable and reviewable call at a meeting Thursday. Now, the rule change would only need to be approved by the league's board of governors in order to go into effect. If the new rule gets board approval, the CFL will be the first football league to allow pass interference calls (or non-calls) to be challenged by coaches undergo video review. That's an important step, and it's one that should lead to more officiating consistency and less incorrect calls. Here are the details, from the league's website:

    “Pass interference is one of the toughest calls to make,” said Glen Johnson, the CFL’s Vice-President of Officiating who spent 24 years as an on field official. “This gives us a second opportunity to get it right on a penalty that can have a great impact on a game.”

    Under the proposal, a team would be able use any of its two (three if first two are successful) 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.

    A coach must challenge to trigger a video review of a pass interference call or a potential pass interference call. They will not be subject to automatic review.

    An unsuccessful challenge of a potential pass interference foul in the final three minutes will result in the loss of a time out. An unsuccessful challenge of an actual pass interference call in the final minutes will not result in the loss of a time out.

    There's been plenty of public opposition to this raised since the proposal was floated this week, so it's interesting that the rules committee went ahead anyway. Of course, there are sound counterarguments to many of the points that have been made against using replay for pass interference. Some have said this will detract from the human element of the game, but it's hard to see that; the command centre officials who would make the final ruling in case of a challenged call are still human, they're just better-informed than the on-field officials thanks to their ability to see the play in slow motion and from multiple angles. Moreover, the on-field calls will still matter; calls are upheld if there isn't conclusive evidence to overturn them, and with a maximum of three challenges per team per game, the vast majority of PI calls or non-calls won't be challenged. (That also speaks to the concerns some have raised about this delaying the game; while pass interference reviews will take a little time thanks to the difficulty of the call, there's still the same maximum number of challenges and plenty of existing reviews take a while, so it's hard to see games getting much longer.)

    Read More »from CFL rules committee endorses historic move to make PI reviewable; now, it’s up to the board
  • Sherbrooke receiver Francis Lapointe is one of the regional combine invitees to advance.After a week of regional combines, the final roster is all set for the CFL's national draft combine this weekend—and it's a roster with a strong component of those who worked their way in. Four players from Thursday's regional combine in Toronto earned invitations to the main event, joining the five added after the Montreal regional combine Wednesday and the five who earned spots thanks to strong showings in the Edmonton regional combine Monday. That makes for 14 players who weren't initially invited to the national combine, but impressed enough in the regional ones to convince CFL teams to take a further look at them. While they'll still be in the minority this weekend ( approximately 40 players were offered invites to the national combine without having to work their way in through regionals), that's a higher number than the six to twelve regional invitees the league initially predicted, and it's over four times as many as the three players who worked their way in last year (two from the Edmonton regional combine, one from the Quebec one). That's a positive sign for the league's regional combine approach (next thing you know, we'll all be caring about Christmas pageants and regionals!), and it also speaks well of the depth of Canadian talent out there.

    Read More »from Strong numbers of combine invitees from regional events show impressive Canadian depth
  • An expanded BMO Field could be the Toronto Argonauts' new home.Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment's plans to expand BMO Field and move the Toronto Argonauts there took another step forward Wednesday when Toronto city council's executive committee endorsed putting $10 million of towards the project. The almost-unanimous vote (Mayor Rob Ford was the lone dissenter) is an important moment here, as it brings the city (which owns the stadium) firmly onside with the plan, and a source of funds has already been identified (Toronto plans to borrow the money and pay it off with increased parking revenues). Perhaps most crucially for CFL fans, MLSE has committed to negotiating a long-term lease with the Argos as part of this proposal. Toronto executives and politicians told The Toronto Star's Paul Moloney that the MLSE investment ($90 million of the projected $120 million cost) and chance to give the Argos a new home (something they've long needed) made this an attractive plan:

    The city, which owns the stadium, is in talks with the other levels of government, who are reviewing the proposal, said City Manager Joe Pennachetti.

    Toronto would borrow its $10 million share and pay it off through increased parking revenues from the expansion, Pennachetti said, calling it a “virtually the definition of ‘win-win.’”

    Added chief financial officer Rob Rossini: “We will continue to own this facility so I look at it this way: A private corporation is willing to put in $90 million of their own money to enhance our facility and maintain it. That’s a very good deal.”

    Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, chair of the executive committee, said the chance to give the Argos a new home was an attractive element of the deal.

    “Soccer is obviously a growing sport in this city; at the same time, this affords the protection of a central part of our Canadian heritage, Canadian football,” Kelly said.

    MLSE, owner of Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors as well as the soccer team, TFC, has committed to negotiate a long term deal with the Argos, who now play at Rogers Centre.

    This isn't a done deal yet, of course. $20 million in funding is still up in the air (MLSE is seeking $10 million each from the provincial and federal governments), and that may not be easy to obtain. There are still plenty of concerns about how the proposed expansion will affect soccer, too, with the playing surface posing a particular problem. Previous reports have discussed a hybrid grass-turf system, but MLSE chief project development officer Robert Hunter's comments to The Star seemed to imply retaining the current grass and just scheduling carefully:

    Read More »from Toronto council committee puts $10 million towards BMO Field expansion, Argos’ inclusion
  • 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


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