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Fining Calvillo’s about the action, not the man, and that’s a positive step for the CFL

Andrew Bucholtz
55 Yard Line

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Fining Anthony Calvillo sends a message that no one's above the law.

The CFL announced fines for three players Wednesday evening, and there was a surprising name topping the list; Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo. You wouldn't expect Calvillo to be receiving discipline from the league; the 39-year-old CFL career passing leader has long been a class act on and off the field, and even if he wasn't, quarterbacks are more frequently in the news for suffering dirty hits than delivering them. However, in this case, the fine for Calvillo's perfectly justified, as he tried to trip Edmonton linebacker Rod Williams in the Alouettes' blowout win over the Eskimos Friday. Williams picked off Calvillo, and rather than go for a standard tackle, Calvillo lunged at the linebacker with his right leg, as you can see in the video below:

The effect's more comic than anything, as Calvillo missed and Williams went on to return the ball much further before being brought down, but that's still a dangerous play. Tackling itself causes enough perils; attempted tripping of an opponent this way, especially at full speed with a fully-extended leg, could result in serious injury for either player involved. It didn't in this case, so this isn't deserving of a suspension, but a fine here sends a couple of important messages. For one thing, it makes it clear that the league doesn't operate under the no harm, no foul principle; sure, plays that actually cause injuries are more likely to result in suspension, but even plays that didn't actually hurt anyone like this deserve to be be punished to discourage others from trying them.

On another front, this helps alleviate the perception that the league will only go after specific players for stepping outside the rules; if Calvillo can be fined, anyone can be, and that might help to encourage safer play. It also makes it clear that offensive skill players are accountable for their on-field actions, too, not just linemen and hard-hitting defenders. Safety's a critical issue for the CFL, and that's why discipline matters so much; it's important to see the league won't stand for dangerous plays like like the one Calvillo made and the ones Toronto defenders Brandon Isaac and Marcus Ball were also fined for Wednesday (in their case, the issue was illegal hits on Calgary running back Jon Cornish). Fining Calvillo (one day before his 40th birthday, too) illustrates that the league's ready and willing to hold anyone accountable, and that's a positive move that might just help make the game safer on the whole.

(Update: this post mistakenly identified the Edmonton defender as Rod Davis, the former Esks' LB who's now with Montreal. It was Rod Williams.)

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