When Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell tweeted on Tuesday, who knew the chain reaction that would be created because of it. What started as a ripple in the pond has led to the circus coming to Regina ahead of the Riders taking on the Stamps Saturday at Mosaic Stadium.
By now, we all know what Mitchell accused the Riders of doing in fewer than 140 characters after he quoted a release posted by the team after they signed a number of players and released some too. The so call “pre-practice” squad has been the talk of the CFL this week. Fans of the other eight teams have been quick to attack the green and white, while a section of Rider fans are claiming this is a non-story. Despite their thoughts, it is a story. The story might not be exactly what you think either. Sure, it’s important to find out what exactly the Riders are doing and if any rules are being broken in the process. According to 3DownNation’s Justin Dunk, it appears rules are being broken. The league apparently thought so too as the team was fined $60,000 and will lose $26,000 on their salary cap this season.
The thing is, if you look hard enough, you can probably find a rule every team is breaking, maybe not to the same extreme, but breaking a rule nonetheless. This speaks to a greater problem and that’s in the league office. The league has never been tough on teams or players for breaking rules. Dirty hits only ever result in a few hundred dollars lost, the Riders didn’t abide by the ratio and only paid a fine and so on. Does this punishment fit the crime? That’s debatable. Many believe Jones should have been suspended and the team should have lost a draft pick or two. I think something along those lines would have sent a stronger message. The only penalty of any significance to this team is the cap penalty, but it’s still a workable number. The fine, while large, isn’t much to the rich Roughriders.
All of this was more than enough to fill radio talk shows and newspaper columns for the week. Then Chris Jones decided to try and change the conversation by bringing out the old paranoia card.
Fans are being asked to sign in at Riders practice. Chris Jones says that some information was "leaked to Ottawa" a few weeks ago.
— Rob Vanstone (@robvanstone) August 11, 2016
Ah yes, when things aren’t going well, be sure to put the fans and media under the microscope, the oldest trick in the book. The thing is, if Jones wants to make a point about information being leaked and how harmful it is, he probably shouldn’t have cited the only game his team has won.
From what I’ve seen online this year, fans have done a pretty good job at following the rules Jones strongly suggested they follow before the team’s first practice of the regular season. So, to put some kind of blame on them seems like a bit much. Maybe by doing so, Jones figures he might be able to find out who started talking about the “pre-practice” squad. At this point, it seems Jones is trying to position himself to eventually close practice to the fans, but first he has to do everything possible to keep them open to appease some in the organization.
All of this is made worse by the fact the team is 1-5. Jones and company are going to extreme lengths to try and field a competitive team and it’s not working out. If they were winning, at least they would be winning and it would seem worth it. Instead of bending (or flat out breaking) the rules or blaming fans, maybe it’s time to look in the mirror. As a former Rider head coach used to say, don’t get bitter, get better.
At the very least, we now have a good reason to watch a game on Saturday that might have otherwise been pretty uneventful.