Gable hits pose two very different questions for the CFL

The hits that led to the injury to Edmonton Eskimos running back C.J. Gable on Friday night pose two very different questions for commissioner Randy Ambrosie and the CFL.

First, let’s get the easy one out of the way: the headshot by Toronto Argonaut Dylan Wynn on a prone and possible unconscious Gable was a dirty play that likely warrants a suspension. The only question is how severe the discipline should be.

Wynn was flagged on the play and likely should have been ejected – again, referees have the authority to kick a player out for an “act of excessive roughness” – and Ambrosie will likely be calling this weekend to discuss the matter. The play is similar to the hit by Ottawa Redblacks linebacker Kyries Hebert against Calgary receiver DaVaris Daniels for which Hebert was suspended one game by the league after he, according to the league “launched himself into the air and led with the crown of his helmet… while the player was in a defenceless position.”

While the plays are obviously different, the description of the Hebert offence matches what Wynn did to Gable.

TSN.ca/The Sports Network Inc.

The only thing that might save Wynn from suspension: he doesn’t have Hebert’s long history of dirty hits.

But what about the initial hit from Argonaut defensive lineman Troy Davis that seemed to do much of the initial damage? That case is far more complicated.

TSN.ca/The Sports Network Inc.

Davis doesn’t appear to lead with the crown of his helmet or launch himself at Gable – in fact, his feet are on the ground when contact is made. He’s clearly making an attempt to wrap Gable up and bring him to the ground.

Meanwhile, Gable appears to to be ducking his head in a defensive manner when contact is made, though it’s possible he was trying to bulldoze Davis and gain some excess yards. That’s an important distinction: in the video it used to explain its reasons for fining Montreal running back Tyrell Sutton this week, the league said by way of explanation “he doesn’t get low to protect himself or brace for contact,” indicating that a defensive manoeuvre is looked at differently than an innately aggressive one.

While the Wynn play is clearly dirty, the Davis hit is more difficult to assess and it demonstrates the challenges posed in trying to legislate head hits out of the game. Should Davis be fined or suspended? Should Gable? And if the Davis play feels dirty, that’s likely because out of the outcome, one that left Gable seemingly unconscious on the field.

The league has talked constantly about its push to improve player safety in recent years, particularly since Ambrosie took over as commissioner. The Hebert suspension and the Sutton fine are examples of that philosophy in action and Wynn presents yet another opportunity. But the Gable play presents a different challenge: how to police plays that aren’t so clear-cut.

One of the common refrains is that it will be impossible to remove the inherent risk from football and it’s possible that Gable’s injury is just one of those things. And that in itself is an altogether different challenge: a “football play” can leave a star running back unconscious on the field with nobody to blame but the game itself.

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.
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Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (1457 Articles)
Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.

36 Comments on Gable hits pose two very different questions for the CFL

  1. Coaches teach ball carriers and tacklers to keep their eyes up and bowl their neck before contact. CJ dipped his head. He is a fantastic RB but this is something 10 year olds know not to do. That is how injuries occur. In no way is the Argo (Davis) guilty of any infraction. Throw the book at Wynn though. One game, two would be warranted although unprecedented.

  2. Stampeding // July 14, 2018 at 12:16 pm //

    Try a 6 game suspension.
    See if that stops this type of thing

    • dangnabbit // July 14, 2018 at 3:05 pm //

      Instant CFLPA grievance. If the league had come out after the Hebert hit and announced they were stiffening the penalties for headshots, then maybe. But if Ambrosie applies such drastically different penalties between two very similar hits, and it’s the guy with no prior history who gets hit harder, then the punishment will get canned for being arbitrary.

  3. Russ cornelius // July 14, 2018 at 12:40 pm //

    I am a long time fan of the game. WYNN was not pushed or interfered with but went directly for helmet shot. Make a stand 1 or 2 games won’t bring the message.

  4. Anthony Kaduck // July 14, 2018 at 1:02 pm //

    I agree. No supplementary discipline warranted for Davis. IMHO Wynn’s hit was worse than Hebert’s because Gable was down. A 2 game suspension is needed.

  5. Scottsask // July 14, 2018 at 1:09 pm //

    Agreed, the first one is just football contact. I doesn’t know how head to head contact can never ever be avoided in football. It’s a collision sport. The second one was simply a malicious dirty hit. The league still got it wrong on Sutton, not a dirty play by him.

  6. Should be a 6 game suspension minimum. I mean the guy is down.

  7. Garney26 // July 14, 2018 at 1:18 pm //

    Finally some opinions that are well thought out. Wynn deserves 2 games. Guy is out cold on the way to the turf then you lead with your head as a weapon! Suttons infraction, Im ok either way. The league is already dealing with concussion lawsuits so they are trying hard to take head shots out of the game. That said football is a contact sport and lije we say on the play Davis was not leading with his head but still made contact that makes it a very grey area. The players association should be concerned about these hits as well.

  8. Paul Bomber // July 14, 2018 at 2:02 pm //

    In Fantsyland, where I’m the Emperor, Wynn is made an example of and kicked out of the league. And nobody is talking about Hebert, because he was kicked out years ago.
    But here in the real world, where player safety is the only at best fourth or fifth on the priority list, one game.
    (fyi – beer and Scotch are free in Fantsyland)

    • Is this the same fantasyland where the riders are a solid, stable organization who win?

      • And….it’s about the Riders yet again. All Riders, all the time Norman Bates.

        • Hey!
          Norman Bates ran and owned a thriving motel, lived in a mansion and was highly skilled as a taxidermist. Nothing to criticize there

      • Paul Bomber // July 14, 2018 at 2:24 pm //

        2&2, biggest TV draw, biggest merch sales, biggest home crowds… no, the Riders are definitely NOT better of or more stable in Fantsyland. And Rod Black is their coach ;^p

  9. The first was football the second was pure headhunting
    Screw 6 games make him sit until CJ is back

      • Listen you little jerk… This article is about CJ Gable and Wynn… Not the Riders or the coach

    • Uncle Dougie // July 14, 2018 at 6:35 pm //

      I like this approach Since Wynn showed no regard for his dispicable and unsportsmanlike play he should be required to wait until CJ returns to full capacity and recovery. There is no place in any league for this type of behavior.

  10. Davis was set to make a “football play” – head and eyes up, feet braced, knees bent to make a good form tackle. Gable looked like he was going to bull through him to gain more yards – just like any other ball carrier (save QBs) would. It is an unfortunate injury.

    Wynn’s hit was egregious, and deserves a multiple-game suspension.

    • Totally agree Aaron.

    • Agreed. And on the first one, the way his head snapped back Davis is lucky to have escaped head or neck injury too.

      Offensive players do need to respect what *their* helmets can do though. I don’t think Gable was being deliberate, if he’d gotten his body lower and then led with his head then he would deserve something like Sutton’s fine (not that he had time to do that on this play). But charging ahead battering-ram style is dangerous to defensive players.

  11. I am an Argo fan but Wynn should have been ejected and serve at least a 2 game suspension. Hebert should have been suspended for 2 games as well.
    When is the CFL going to wake up and start giving real suspensions to players that have no regard for their opponents safety?

  12. Sifnificantly stiffer penalties & fines have to be in the next CBA. No appeals. No arbitration. I know the CFL isn’t the NFL so instead of fines with 6 figures or more make them mid to high five figures with multiple game suspensions. The worse for reoffenders like Hebert who maybe should be lookiing at minimum 9 games & 50000 fine. For Wynn three to four with a 25000 fine. That should get players attention.

  13. Lindsay Wilcox // July 14, 2018 at 5:41 pm //

    Suggesting, even as a question, that Gable deserved/deserves a penalty/fine is ludicrous. He was doing what an RB running between the tackles is supposed to do.

    It is probably impossible to say definiv3ly which hit caused the injury to CJ, but IMO Wynn’s hit is by far the more violent and more likely to have caused the injury.
    Should be escalators on penalties/fines/suspensions -any player who tackles dirty after Hebert’s should get at least 2X fine/suspension as Hebert, and the next offender, 3 0r 4 X.

    And with video evidence, no appeals/hearings.

  14. Bomber- when you were king did you kick out Hebert before or after he won the Tom Pate award in 2013?
    Scottsask-agree completely with your comment.

  15. There is no way Wynn should not have been ejected, as there is no way he doesn’t get at least one game.

    However, 2-3 games simply based on the act itself and the CFL’s reputation of player safety being paramount is in order. If it is one game or nothing then one really has to question why the CFL is giving the player safety issue lip service. Afterall they completely missed the ejection.

    How can the CFL say in one hand we must limit contact in practice and on the other dirty deliberate dangerous hits warrant no ejection and a one-game suspension? The CFL Commissioners credibility is on the line on this one.

  16. Black and Gold Forever // July 15, 2018 at 9:31 am //

    The on field officials blew this one. While the head to head contact between Gable and Davis could be ruled as incidental contact, Wynn’s should have been ruled as a deliberate intent to injure. In this case a 25 yard Rough Play penalty should have been assessed, which carries an automatic game misconduct and possible suspicion.The one game suspension is less than what it should have been. This is reminiscent of Ndomakan Suh in the NFL. This type of play cannot be tolerated.

  17. DIRTY PLAYER Wynn should be fined min. $10,000.00 and disqualified for 6 games. Your not needed in CFL. Hope your NOT SEEN on a CFL GAME would be FANTASTIC

  18. Karen Denne // July 15, 2018 at 12:02 pm //

    Nice Doug, a player makes one mistake and you want him banned from the league…This is a first offense, he made a mistake and he is going to sit for a game. Up to this time, Wynn has never been considered a ‘dirty’ player. Instead, Argo fans see him as a guy who gives 100% on every play. This was very unfortunate and I would expect that it will never happen again.

    • NOT a mistake and every player KNOWS WHAT SPEERING Is and any player that uses it is DIRTY My opinion SHUD BE GONE

      • Doug, when you own a franchise, then your tiny minded opinion will count. Until then, SU and go get me beer.

  19. Doug- no way that would ever happen. CFL would collapse with those punishments. But Karen- Wynn caught my eye as a young player who goes over the edge even before this incident. I am sure Argo fans love his aggressive and tenacious play, but everyone else in the league could see he plays on the edge and no surprise he went over it. Look at his first few games and tell me you think he didn’t get away with a few uncalled UR’s.

  20. Freelasagnahunter // July 15, 2018 at 7:29 pm //

    Its a “common refrain”, Drew, because sometimes its the right answer.
    You cant virtue signal everything every time.

  21. Tiger man // July 17, 2018 at 8:27 am //

    Here are my two questions…

    Why is this allowed to happen??

    When is the league and the zebras going to take this situation seriously??

  22. Shows who like dirty actions and DIRTY players.

Comments are closed.