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  • CFL chief operating officer Michael Copeland (right) is taking on the role of president as well.

    It looks like the CFL's top leadership is going to be in place for a while longer. Commissioner Mark Cohon signed a three-year contract extension last February, and the league announced Tuesday that chief operating officer Michael Copeland has been promoted to league president as well as COO. Copeland has been with the league since 2006, a year before Cohon was hired, and he's done a strong job overseeing areas from CBA negotiations to television contracts to the league's return to Ottawa. Here's what Cohon had to say about Copeland in a release:

    Read More »from CFL promotes Michael Copeland to president as well as chief operating officer
  • The Bombers' release of Alex Brink suggests they're looking for a new QB of the future.It's been an offseason of change for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and the most dramatic changes may have come at the most pivotal position: quarterback. The team followed up their earlier release of Joey Elliott with the release of Alex Brink Monday, but then added former Brigham Young University Wildcats and Arizona Cardinals pivot Max Hall and former Rice Owls quarterback Chase Clement. With incumbents Buck Pierce and Justin Goltz, they likely have all the quarterbacks they'll bring to camp, and they may have a better idea of who's going to be their quarterback of the future. There are still plenty of questions about their quarterback situation this season, though.

    The releases of Brink and Elliott are understandable, as both never really found consistency in Winnipeg despite some solid performances. Elliott looked like one of the league's best quarterbacks some weeks, but ended his Bombers tenure with seven touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a 58.0 per cent completion rate over three years, not really good enough to inspire a lot of optimism about his CFL future. Brink's stats are similar: also in three seasons, he threw 13 touchdowns against 13 picks, but only completed 56.8 per cent of his passes (including a dismal 55.8 per cent mark last year). While both quarterbacks looked great at times, their bodies of work didn't really suggest that they were set to take the next step and become a consistent CFL starter, so it makes sense that the Bombers are looking to go in a different direction. However, that doesn't mean their new plan is going to be immediately successful.

    Read More »from Bombers slightly clarify QB picture with release of Alex Brink, additions of Max Hall, Chase Clement
  • Famed CTV broadcaster Johnny Esaw passed away Saturday at the age of 87.Famed Canadian sports broadcaster and executive Johnny Esaw passed away at the age of 87 Saturday in Toronto, and he'll be remembered for contributions that spanned the sports world. Esaw started his career on the radio in Saskatchewan, then moved to Toronto in the 1960s to become the sports director for CTV's local station and quickly worked his way into many critical positions. He produced the first colour broadcast of a hockey game in 1967 (from Vienna, Austria), was influential in getting figure skating widely televised in Canada, did the famed 1972 Summit Series interview with Phil Esposito, and eventually became vice-president of CTV Sports in 1974, a position he held until his 1990 retirement. While there, he managed to broadcast the Indy 500 live in Canada almost 10 years before it was shown live south of the border, both securing the rights and then calling the race himself. Esaw's CFL contributions will be particularly remembered, as he was a key force in broadcasting and promoting the game, announcing games from 1962 to 1973 and continuing to host broadcasts from 1974 to 1986 despite his duties in the CTV office. Here's what CFL commissioner Mark Cohon said about Esaw in a statement Sunday:

    Read More »from Canadian sports broadcasting pioneer Johnny Esaw left a major mark on the CFL
  • Argos' star Chad Owens won his MMA debut in Hawaii Saturday.When reigning CFL Most Outstanding Player Chad Owens announced he'd be taking part in a mixed martial arts fight in Hawaii this offseason, there were plenty of questions to be asked. Sure, many football players train in MMA during the offseason, and some former football players have found success in the sport, but a current player competing in an actual MMA fight was something relatively new (although former Edmonton Eskimo Adam Braidwood reportedly did so as well during his time in the CFL), and something potentially dangerous. While MMA workouts can be incredibly useful for players, actual fights carry significant injury risks, and the Toronto Argonauts can ill-afford to lose a star player like Owens thanks to an off-season event. However, the current player contract doesn't ban MMA fights (that may change down the road), so Owens went ahead and the team offered reluctant support. It worked out for them, as you can see from this video of Owens' unanimous-decision triumph Saturday night, one he told Hawaii News Now he emerged from without serious injury:

    For a guy who's a football player first and foremost, Owens definitely has strong MMA skills. You can see him controlling the fight throughout in that clip, taking opponent Junyah Tevaga down early and often and then pounding him once he got him to the ground. Owens isn't big (he's listed at 5'8'', 180 pounds, making his "Mighty Mouse" nickname apt), but he's remarkably quick and agile, and he has impressive striking skills as well. Owens earlier said he's committed to the CFL, but wants to explore MMA to see if it might be an option once he finishes his football career. A relatively low-level fight like this doesn't necessarily mean he has a career high-level MMA, especially when you consider the experience gap he'd have against most fighters, but he certainly showed some potential here.

    Read More »from Video: CFL star Chad Owens wins MMA debut, reportedly emerges unscathed
  • Chris Williams eluded tacklers this past season. Now, he's trying to find a way out of his contract.

    There's an interesting situation developing in Hamilton, with star Tiger-Cats' returner/receiver Chris Williams apparently looking for a way out of his contract. According to Drew Edwards, he may have found one. Williams signed a deal for two years plus a third year with a team option in 2011, and the Tiger-Cats obviously exercised that option given his success, keeping him around through the 2013 season. Williams is now saying that the Tiger-Cats didn't offer him the option of signing a minimum-term contract (one year plus a team option) in 2011, which would be a violation of the CFL's collective bargaining agreement and could potentially provide a way for him to get out of the last year of this current deal. From Edwards:

    Multiple sources say the Ticats receiver and kick returner has asked the CFL player's association to investigate whether the team violated the terms of the collective bargaining agreement with hopes of having the final year of his contract with the club declared void.

    At issue is a little-known provision within the league's CBA which stipulates that every player must be offered a minimum-term contract – one-year plus a team-held option – even if the club is offering as longer-term contract as well. Williams was signed to a three-year contract (two-year-plus-an-option) in May 2011 and is contending that he was not offered a minimum deal at the time.

    Tiger-Cats' head coach/general manager Kent Austin (who was just hired this offseason; it would have been former GM Bob O'Billovich's administration who negotiated Williams' deal) told Edwards a concern has been raised by Williams and agent Dan Vertlieb, but the team hasn't received a formal complaint and still views Williams' contract as binding. Thus, if the league and/or the players' association don't elect to push things any further, it's quite possible Williams' contract won't be voided. (Whether he'll actually fulfil it is another matter; he could easily just sit out this season, but that might not help his NFL cause.) However, while Williams' claim may seem like an attempt to find a loophole, it actually brings up an important point, and it should be thoroughly considered.

    Read More »from Chris Williams’ contract complaint bears investigation
  • Darvin Adams caught TDs for Auburn in 2010. Now he's criticizing the school's football program.Darvin Adams hasn't yet recorded a single statistic for the Toronto Argonauts, but he's already making headlines. The wide receiver, who was signed by the Argonauts January 28 following two years in the NFL and the UFL, was quoted in former New York Times and Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts' eye-catching piece alleging NCAA violations, altering grades and meddling in criminal prosecutions from the coaching staff at Auburn University. The piece was published at Roberts' Roopstigo site Wednesday. Here's what Adams had to say:

    Receiver Darvin Adams, a star player with NFL dreams and a family to support, wrestled with whether to turn pro after the championship season. He discussed his plans with teammates and told them how much pressure he was under by Auburn coaches to stay. McNeil and Blanc say Auburn coaches offered Adams several thousand dollars to stay for his senior year. “It was sugar-coated in a way,” says Adams, who confirmed he was offered financial incentives, but declined to detail the exact amount. “It was like, we’ll do this and that for you. But I’d rather do things the right way. I am happy I didn’t say yes to that stuff. That’s what I’d tell kids.” Adams turned pro but went undrafted, a result, one NFL scout says, was due to negative reports on him from Auburn coaches. Adams plays for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League and refuses to be bitter. “I play the cards I’m dealt.”

    Read More »from New Argonaut Darvin Adams says Auburn coaches offered him money to stay in school
  • A storage shed at Canad Inns Stadium caught fire Tuesday night.

    We've seen false reports of a CFL stadium fire before, but this one appears to be real. Twitter filled up with reports and photos of a significant fire in a storage shed at Canad Inns Stadium in Winnipeg Tuesday night. Here are some of the photos, from CTV's Ben Miljure and Global's Mitch Rosset:

    Read More »from Photos: Fire at Winnipeg’s Canad Inns Stadium
  • The Argos lifted the Grey Cup at the Rogers Centre in 2012, but may need to find a new stadium.

    There's a lot of excitement in Toronto around the Blue Jays, who start their Major League Baseball season Tuesday night against the Cleveland Indians. For their co-tenants at the Rogers Centre, though, the Jays' remarkable offseason may not prove entirely positive; the renewed level of interest in the baseball team seems likely to boost their financial picture, and is probably related to the stories that have started popping up about the team taking their long-rumoured interest in converting their field to grass into a a definite timeframe for installation between 2015 and 2018. A grass field wouldn't work for a stadium that the team shares with the CFL's Toronto Argonauts, as football tends to chew grass up too much for baseball, and The Globe and Mail's Robert MacLeod has reported that Jays' president Paul Beeston has told the Argos they need to find a new home within five years.

    From a CFL perspective, the most basic way to look at this is as the Rogers-owned Jays bullying the Argos out of a Rogers-owned arena, especially given recent reports of Rogers' growing distaste for the Bell/TSN-affiliated CFL. However, that's not really the whole story: while the quest for a new home is likely to be exceptionally difficult for the Argos, securing a better facility is probably crucial to their long-term future, and a deadline like Beeston's reported one might actually prove a valuable motivator for them to get that done sooner rather than later.

    Read More »from Blue Jays’ plan for real grass at Rogers Centre poses problems and opportunities for Argos
  • Khalif Mitchell will be taking his celebrations to Toronto.By and large, the CFL's most successful teams operate on the basis that talent is talent; a lot can be overlooked if the player's good enough. Sometimes, though, controversies on and off the field can become enough of a headache to move even a talented player. That appears to be the case with the B.C. Lions' decision to send defensive tackle Khalif Mitchell to the Toronto Argonauts for defensive end Adrian Awasom and the rights to a negotiation-list player.

    Based on pure talent alone, that doesn't seem like a huge return for Mitchell; he's been a league all-star as recently as 2011, has a mix of size (he's listed at 6'5'', 316 pounds) and speed that's extremely rare in the CFL, is turning just 28 this year and can be one of the league's most disruptive interior pass-rushers when he's at his best. Given all the controversies Mitchell provoked this past season and what seemed to be an eroding relationship between him and the Lions, it's hard to fault B.C. for making this move, though. (Running back Andrew Harris doesn't seem too broken up about it.) The key question is which Mitchell Toronto will land; the 2011 version who dominated the line of scrimmage and was one of the most crucial components in their Grey Cup victory, the 2012 version who earned suspensions from both the league and his team, or a combination of both?

    Read More »from Will talent, controversy, or both follow former B.C. Lion Khalif Mitchell to Toronto?
  • Rey Williams has returned to Regina as a free agent, showing it's a destination.There's an interesting contrast in the CFL: the league's smallest city has its most financially powerful team. The success of the Saskatchewan Roughriders has long been cited as a crucial factor in CFL TV ratings (as flawed as those may be), and the team has been at the top of the league (or occasionally right near it) the top in television numbers, social media numbers and merchandise sales for years. The Riders' popularity with fans across the country was undoubtedly a factor in the CFL's massive new broadcast deal (now believed to be worth upwards of $40 million annually), too; they're far from the only reason for the league's success, but they're a big part of it. However, while the team's had solid fan support for decades, that hasn't always translated into attracting top players in free agency; for some time, Regina has been viewed as a harder sell than bigger cities for top free agents. As Murray McCormick writes in The Regina Leader-Post, that may be starting to change: the team's brought in big names like Geroy Simon, Ricky Foley, Rey Williams and Dwight Anderson so far this offseason, and Williams told McCormick Saskatchewan seems like an attractive destination for players these days:

    Read More »from Destination: Regina

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