TORONTO — For Orlondo Steinauer, it's the least-favourite part of his job as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' head coach/president of football operations.
All nine CFL teams had until 10 p.m. ET on Saturday to finalize their rosters. Steinauer and the Ticats' football operations department had plenty of evaluation and re-evaluation to do following Hamilton's 18-17 loss to the Toronto Argonauts on Friday at Guelph, Ont., in the final exhibition game for both teams.
"This is not a fun time," Steinauer said. "I wish decisions sometimes were easier but I think the personnel department has done a great job of bringing in not just great players but good people and great men.
"We're not going to have it to an exact science here heading into Week 1 but we will put our best foot forward."
Steinauer is entering his third season as the Ticats' head coach. Before joining the coaching ranks in 2010 as an assistant with Toronto, Steinauer was a five-time league all-star over 13 years as a defensive back with Ottawa (1996), Hamilton (1997-2000) and the Argos (2001-2008) and is slated to be inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame later this month.
Unlike past years, there was no pre-set roster number Saturday. According to the CFL, all players who ended training camp with their clubs were guaranteed of an opening-week game cheque, so it was up to the respective franchises to determine how many they'd carry.
Game day rosters, though, will be a minimum of 44 or a maximum of 45, excluding those on the one- or six-game injured lists. Twenty-one are national (Canadian), a maximum of 20 are American, two are quarterbacks and one is a global player.
If a team chooses to go with 45 players, the extra can be a third quarterback, another national or a second global.
Of a team's 24 starters, a minimum of seven must be Canadian. An additional 13 players can be on a team's practice roster.
Canadian running back Kyle Borsa was among 18 players released by the Grey Cup-champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who were the first to announce their final cuts. The five-foot-11, 200-pound Borsa, a Regina native, was a 2021 fifth-round draft pick and played in both of the club's exhibition games, rushing for a combined 23 yards on 13 carries.
Winnipeg also placed 12 players on the practice roster, including Canadian defensive back Patrice Rene ('21 draft pick) and American kicker Ali Mourtada, who appeared in five regular-season games last season. The Bombers also placed global punter Tom Hackett and American receiver Carlton Agudosi on the suspended list.
The B.C. Lions' final moves weren't immediately known, but veteran American defensive back Delvin Breaux tweeted he'd made the team's final roster. The 32-year-old Breaux, a two-time league all-star, came out of retirement to sign with the CFL club in February.
Edmonton kicker Sergio Castillo tweeted. "Just a kid from La Joya, Tx going onto year #8," with a photo of his stall in the Elks dressing room. And global kicker Toshiki Sato took to social media to reveal he'd been signed to the practice roster by Toronto.
Defensive back Trumaine Washington and receiver B.J. Cunningham, both veteran Americans, were among 25 players released by the Ottawa Redblacks. Washington, who'd played previously with Toronto (2018-19) and Edmonton (2021), finished tied for most interceptions in the CFL last year (five) while also recording a career-high 55 defensive tackles.
Cunningham registered 272 catches for 3,741 yards and 17 TDs over six seasons with Montreal before joining the Redblacks.
Ottawa also placed 13 players on the practice roster, including Canadian offensive lineman Eric Starczala, a former Argo draft selection. Offensive lineman Connor Berglof and long-snapper Connor Ross, both Canadians, were transferred to the suspended list.
American receiver Nick Holley was among 19 players released by the club. Holley had 10 receptions for 105 yards and returned three kickoffs for 57 yards in starting two-of-three games before finishing the season on the practice roster.
Holley's twin brother, Nate, is a former Stampeders linebacker.
Calgary also placed 13 players on the practice roster, including Canadian kicker Keiran Burnham and global linebacker Ryan Gomes. Canadian defensive back Shaquille St-Lot was transferred to the retired list.
American receiver Jalen Tolliver, who played in 12 games (six starts) last season was among 21 players let go by the Edmonton Elks. Tolliver had 29 caches for 383 yards and four TDs in 2021.
Canadian quarterback Michael Beaudry and veteran national receiver Rashaun Simonise were among 10 players put on the practice roster while national linebacker Jacob Plamondon went on the suspended list.
The Montreal Alouettes released 24 players, including veteran American receiver Quan Bray. He had 93 catches for 1,299 yards and eight TDs in 27 regular-season games over two seasons with the CFL club.
In 2020, Bray also got into legal hot water when he and former Auburn teammate Greg Robinson were arrested on charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and possession of marijuana with the intent to sell, distribute or dispense. One of the charges against Bray was dropped, while he pleaded guilty to the other and had to pay an undisclosed fine.
The '22 regular season kicks off Thursday night with the Montreal Alouettes visiting Calgary. Hamilton's season opener will be Saturday night in Regina against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie echoed Steinauer's sentiments regarding his dislike of final cutdown.
"It's a tough day," he said. "We'll have some tough conversations with guys."
But that won't include Toronto's quarterback room. Shortly after Friday's contest, Dinwiddie said veteran McLeod Bethel-Thompson will be the Argos' starter and backed up by newcomer Chad Kelly, the nephew of former Buffalo Bills star passer Jim Kelly.
Rookie Austin Simmons, who played much of the fourth quarter Friday, will be Toronto's No. 3 and short-yardage quarterback.
At least Dinwiddie and the Argos will have additional time to prepare for the '22 season. Toronto has an opening-week bye and will play its first contest June 16 hosting Montreal at BMO Field.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 4, 2022.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press