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  • Arland Bruce has spent 12 years in the CFL (Graham Hughes, CP)

    For the most part, those in the football world with the grace to put a name to their comments have supported NFL defensive line prospect Michael Sam coming out on Sunday.

    Then there is much-travelled CFL slotback Arland Bruce. Over his dozen years in the league with five teams, Bruce has often proven to be an entertaining personality and a world-class earth scorcher, who is as capable of drawing cheap heat with as he is at drawing double coverage. There has been his poorly conceived Thriller tribute after Michael Jackson's death in 2009, the Spiderman touchdown celebration in '08 and the time he briefly adopted the pseudonym Runako Reth. Synopsis: he can play, but he's a headache.

    A lot of it has just been harmless exhibitionism, which is the province of pass receivers, the Lord Byrons of the gridiron. On Monday, though, the 36-year-old Bruce, when it would have been best to keep his mouth shut, used social media to direct a vile message at Sam. Tellingly, Bruce locked his Twitter account after sending the missive. Needless to say, it's a firestorm for the Canadian Football League.

    Warning: it's not safe for work, and Bruce misspelled gay.

    Read More »from Alouettes’ Arland Bruce III tells gay NFL prospect Michael Sam to ‘submit to God fully’ in crude Instagram post
  • Former Bombers' LB Henoc Muamba seems set to head to the NFL.The CFL offseason is full of losses as well as gains for most teams, and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are no exception. They acquired a new starting quarterback Thursday, bringing in and signing Drew Willy, but this week has also seen them lose linebacker Henoc Muamba, the former first-overall draft choice who was named the team's top player, top defensive player and top Canadian player in 2013. Winnipeg released Muamba Wednesday so he could try and land a spot in the NFL, and it looks like that's set to happen, with several teams showing interest in him. (Update: he signed with the Indianapolis Colts Thursday night, where he'll join another former CFL star linebacker, Jerrell Freeman.) Muamba will be a big loss for the Bombers, so it will be notable to watch and see how they try to fill the void he leaves.

    Read More »from Bombers release star Canadian linebacker Henoc Muamba so he can pursue NFL opportunities
  • Drew Willy shone as a backup against Winnipeg in 2013; now, he gets to lead the Bombers.The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were twice scorned in their search for a new quarterback this offseason, but the third time proved to be the charm. After being passed over by both Zach Collaros (who signed with Hamilton) and Henry Burris (who went to Ottawa), Winnipeg managed to nab Drew Willy Thursday. They picked him up in advance of his pending free agency thanks to general manager Kyle Walters swinging a deal with Saskatchewan, sending Canadian receiver Jade Etienne to the Riders for the rights to Willy, then quickly signing Willy to what's reportedly a two-year extension. This works out very well for Saskatchewan, who picked up a talented Canadian player, a Regina native and a former first-round draft pick in Etienne in exchange for a player who likely wasn't coming back once he hit free agency, and it could also work out for the Bombers, as they avoided the perils of potentially missing out yet again and managed to land a starting quarterback. However, a lot depends on how Willy plays in blue and gold; he has substantial upside, but he's much more of an unproven commodity than Winnipeg's previous quarterback targets.

    Read More »from Bombers finally get a quarterback target, acquiring and signing former Rider backup Drew Willy
  • Joe Paopao, who was added to the Lions' Wall of Fame in 2007, is back in B.C.It's quite rare to see a head coach leave a program for a lower-level assistant's job elsewhere, but that's what happened Thursday with the news that Waterloo Warriors head coach Joe Paopao has left the program to take the receivers coach position with the CFL's B.C. Lions. Of course, there are a few extra factors that come into play here: Paopao has a long history in B.C. as a player, assistant coach and head coach, and Waterloo's far from the strongest or best-paying CIS program; the Warriors are only a few years removed from the performance-enhancing drug scandal that caused them to sit out the whole 2010 season (performing only practices and controlled scrimmages that year) before returning to CIS play in 2011, and they've gone just 3-21 since coming back (including a 1-7 mark this past season). Still, losing a head coach for a non-coordinator job elsewhere is remarkable, and Paopao's move adds him to the substantial ranks of CIS coaches jumping to the CFL.

    Read More »from CIS Corner: Head coach Joe Paopao leaves Waterloo to coach receivers in B.C.
  • Corey Chamblin is the first African-American to be named CFL coach of the year (CP)

    Moments after being confirmed as the best in his biz, Corey Chamblin flashed back on a prophetic conversation he had with Jim Barker during his first season in the CFL.

    Back in 2008, Chamblin, who on Wednesday collected the Annis Stukus Trophy as the cherry on the sundae of the Saskatchewan Roughriders' Grey Cup-winning season, was a young defensive backs coach with the Calgary Stampeders. As they prepped for the Grey Cup against the Montreal Alouettes, Barker offered a sage vote of confidence that tipped Chamblin toward staying in the league.

    "Even when I got to the CFL, I didn't think I'd be a head coach as early as I did," said Chamblin, 36, who won the coach-of-the-year award over the Stampeders' John Hufnagel and his Grey Cup opponent, Hamilton's Kent Austin.

    "Two people I would like to talk about there would be ['Riders GM] Brendan Taman, for thinking out of the box and giving me an opportunity to be a head coach [at the age of 35 in 2012]. The other is Jim Barker. I can remember, 2008 Grey Cup, sitting in the room breaking down film and he said, 'you'll be a better head coach than assistant coach. And if you decide to stay in this league and don't go to the NFL, you'll be a head coach.' I was like, 'Jim, you're crazy.' Jim and Brendan, I thought they were crazy but they know what they know and they saw what they saw in me.

    "I recall he [Barker] said, 'You remind me of a guy, [former Super Bowl-winning coach] Mike Holmgren, you're going to be a better head coach than you are assistant if you decide to stay in this league.' I took that and I think that was something that opened my eyes. I should start preparing myself."

    Read More »from Roughriders’ Corey Chamblin collects CFL coach of the year honour
  • Henry Burris is taking his talents to Ottawa, leaving Winnipeg in the cold.After putting up a 3-15 mark with a variety of quarterbacks in 2013, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers came into this offseason determined to get better at the position. So far, though, that hasn't worked out for them despite the abundance of quarterbacks on the market. Both Zach Collaros and Henry Burris were released by their teams in advance of free agency, and the Bombers went after both, but Collaros opted to go to Hamilton instead (triggering the Burris release), and Burris elected to join the Ottawa Redblacks. That's left Winnipeg in the cold, with only limited options. From Kirk Penton of The Winnipeg Sun:

    The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have been spurned by their second quarterback in as many weeks, but this one really hurts. ...

    Winnipeg put in an offer for free agent pivot Zach Collaros last week, but the former Toronto Argonauts backup signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats instead. Burris is the one the Bombers really wanted, but he has instead agreed to sign with his former Calgary coaches, Mike Gibson and Rick Campbell, in the nation’s capital.

    Bombers GM Kyle Walters was offering between $300,000 and $350,000 a season for Burris to help get the Blue and Gold out of the volcano that was their 3-15 campaign in 2013 and be a reason to give fans some short-term hope.

    The Burris signing leaves Kevin Glenn’s status up in the air. The RedBlacks took Glenn from the Calgary Stampeders in the expansion draft, and it’s unlikely both he and Burris will start the season in Ottawa. ...

    Winnipeg is also believed to be interested in Saskatchewan Roughriders backup quarterback Drew Willy, who will become a free agent next week.

    Choosing between Kevin Glenn and Drew Willy isn't exactly an appetizing prospect, but it may be what the Bombers are left with. Neither's all that attractive of a choice at the moment, though. Glenn's a 13-year CFL veteran, and a guy who had success in Winnipeg before, and his 2013 stats with Calgary were reasonably impressive (2,710 yards, 18 touchdowns against seven interceptions, a 66.7 per cent completion rate), but they weren't on the level of Burris, who led the league with 4,925 passing yards (which explains why Ottawa would go after Burris despite already having Glenn). Glenn's also 34, so while he could have some good years left, he's not a long-term solution, and although he was more efficient than Burris last year in completion percentage and TD/INT, it's tough to say he's the better quarterback at this moment in time. He also didn't exactly part ways on good terms with current Bombers' offensive coordinator Marcel Bellefeuille, who implemented a two-quarterback system with Glenn and Quinton Porter in 2011, his last year as the head coach in Hamilton. Winnipeg could well wind up with Glenn, and he might provide them with a decent stabilizing veteran presence for a while, but for those fans who had dreams of Collaros or Burris, that would seem to be a disappointing outcome.

    Read More »from What’s next for the Bombers, now that Henry Burris has turned them down?
  • Henry Burris spurned Winnipeg to sign with first-year Ottawa on Tuesday (Mike Carroccetto for Yahoo! Canada Sports)

    An enduring friendship and the desire to finish his CFL career closer to the northeast U.S. led to Henry Burris picking Ottawa over Winnipeg. The fact the first-year Redblacks, for whom "expansion team" is a dirty word, were willing to commit to a three-year contract for a quarterback who will soon turn 39 years old likely played into it as well.

    In what will inevitably be taken as a telling moment about the state of both franchises, Burris has opted to sign with a first-year team rather than join the beleaguered Blue Bombers who finished a league-worst 3-15 in 2013. The veteran pivot who steered the young Hamilton Tiger-Cats' cubs to a Grey Cup berth last November ("we had the youngest team in the league on both sides of the ball, I was changing Pampers day in and day out," he quipped) is starting all over again.

    "Players across the league are talking about all the serious intentions of the Ottawa franchise," said Burris, who threw for a CFL-high 4,925 yards last season on a league-high 567 attempts. "Mr. [Jeff] Hunt and the [Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group] ownership group and all the qualities that group brings to the table. You want to talk instant accreditation it doesn't get better than that.

    "This move reminds me of when I went to Calgary with new local owners, John Forzani, took over. Look how successful that organization’s been. It’s no longer a dog-and-pony show out there. The same thing will happen here. You have a group who have come together to make the best entertainment product for the fans in Ottawa, who truly deserve it.

    "I know for me this will be my last contract," Burris added. "The way we wanted to do it was our way. To do it with the Redblacks was definitely the way to go. There’s no better way to close this thing out."

    Read More »from Henry Burris, on joining Ottawa Redblacks: ‘There’s no better way to close this thing out’
  • November's playoff game against Saskatchewan was Korey Banks' last for B.C.It's unusual to see big-name players traded in the CFL, and it's even more rare to see trades that look like a win for both sides, but both of those elements can be found in Friday's deal that sent B.C. import defensive back Korey Banks to Winnipeg in exchange for Canadian receiver Kito Poblah. Banks is a much more established player at the moment, and he should help shore up a Winnipeg secondary that was extremely leaky last season, but Poblah has a lot of potential and could give the Lions extra Canadian depth at receiver, something they haven't always had. Both players were unlikely to do much with their current teams going forward, so this looks like a win for both B.C. GM Wally Buono and Winnipeg GM Kyle Walters; each addressed a need of their club while giving up someone who wasn't a big part of their future plans. There's no guarantee that either Banks or Poblah will do big things with their new team, but both have the potential for greatness, and acquiring players with that kind of potential while only giving up minimal assets is smart.

    Banks is the more established player here, and the one who's more likely to star with his new team. He's a 10-year CFL veteran, a seven-time divisional all-star, and a four-time league all-star (including back-to-back nods in 2011 and 2012), so he instantly improves the credibility of a Winnipeg secondary that was awful against the pass last year. In 2013, the Bombers gave up 432 completions, a 68.1 per cent completion mark, 235 passing first downs and 35 passing touchdowns, putting them last or tied for last in every one of those categories; they also recorded a league-low 12 interceptions, less than one-third of Banks' career total of 37. Thus, it shouldn't take much to make them better.

    2013 was a bit of a down year for Banks from an interceptions standpoint, as he only notched two picks, but he's still an incredibly capable defender, and a versatile one who can play linebacker, nickel back or deeper in the secondary. That could be important, as Winnipeg hasn't named a defensive coordinator yet, so acquiring players like Banks who can fill a multitude of roles may prove beneficial regardless of what scheme they eventually run. Banks turns 35 in August, so who knows how long he'll be able to keep playing for, but he should be able to at least help the Bombers out this year, and he might be a key part for them for several seasons if he can maintain his form.

    Why did B.C. let Banks go? According to Lowell Ullrich of The Province, money seems to be a factor:

    Read More »from Korey Banks – Kito Poblah trade carries high upside for both Bombers and Lions
  • Former Riders' receiver Weston Dressler is off to the NFL.The Saskatchewan Roughriders have had an offseason of difficult losses already, and it looks like it may be about to get worse. The team released star slotback Weston Dressler Thursday, and while the move wasn't all that unexpected (Dressler was set to be a free agent Feb. 15 and had received interest from several NFL teams), it means the loss of one of their best players is finally a reality. There's also continuing NFL interest in star running back Kory Sheets, and the Riders have plenty of other players set to hit the open market in February, so this loss may just be one of many when all's said and done. Attrition's to be expected when you win a championship, but still, the loss of a long-time face of the franchise like Dressler (like also-departed receiver Andy Fantuz, he had his own line of edibles) seems like one that will particularly sting in Saskatchewan. As Riders' assistant GM Jeremy O'Day told The Canadian Press, Dressler will be tough to replace:

    Read More »from Riders release NFL-bound Weston Dressler: the first offseason loss of many?
  • Former Argos' pivot Zach Collaros is headed to the Tiger-Cats.The CFL's Battle of Ontario just got a little more interesting, as a quarterback has crossed the lines. According to both a Canadian Press report and a piece from Drew Edwards of The Hamilton Spectator, former Toronto Argonauts pivot Zach Collaros has signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Collaros did well in extended stints replacing Ricky Ray this past season and was set to become a free agent in February, but Toronto released him early to let him explore his options; now, he's signed with their biggest rival. Moreover, this signing likely means that Henry Burris is on his way out of Hamilton, and Matthew Scianitti of TSN reports that the Tiger-Cats have already released him. Burris had a tremendous season in 2013, topping the league with 4,925 passing yards, and he led the Tiger-Cats to a Grey Cup appearance, but he was also set for free agency in February, and there had been rumblings that Hamilton wasn't willing to pay big for a 38-year-old quarterback. The Collaros move thus could set off a chain reaction of events across the league, depending on where Burris winds up.

    The most likely landing spot for Burris would appear to be the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who look like the team most in need of a proven quarterback. None of Winnipeg's younger guys have panned out yet, and while Burris might not have that many years left, he's arguably one of the league's best quarterbacks ever. Furthermore, the Bombers appear eager to turn things around quickly, and Burris would give them an excellent shot at that. They would still need to develop a younger guy as well, but given that they don't seem to have any capable starters at the moment, a move for Burris either in free agency or sooner if Hamilton cuts him before then could make a lot of sense. The Ottawa Redblacks could also take a look, but they have Kevin Glenn and Thomas DeMarco already, and while neither's necessarily a great option right now, that doesn't leave much room for Burris. Thus, Winnipeg's the most probable landing spot for him. It isn't the only one, though.

    Read More »from Hamilton signs Zach Collaros, releases Henry Burris, starts QB chain reaction

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