The league is bringing almost 60 players to its inaugural CFL Week, the new fan and media event being held in Regina starting on Tuesday. And while all the usual suspects will be in attendance – the starting quarterback from every team is coming – there are a few notable omissions.
The players were selected, according to a CFL spokesperson, after discussions between the league, the teams and television rights holder TSN. Every player who was invited is showing up – yet another testament to the willingness of the league’s stars to do their part in promoting the game.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders have the most players in attendance with nine and that makes sense, given that the event is taking place in football-mad Regina. The CFL certainly doesn’t need to drum up more support for the game in Riderville – it’s already one of the best and most rabid fan bases – but by doing so, they’ve lowered the degree of difficulty significantly. After a Grey Cup week in Toronto that failed to move the needle in any way (with the exception of a spectacular game) the league can hardly afford another dud.
The Montreal Alouettes have eight players going, including former Rider quarterback Darian Durant who was traded this off-season – his return will be a storyline to be sure – but the decision to omit active sack leader John Bowman certainly qualifies as something of a snub. It wasn’t lost on the 34-year veteran, who took to Twitter to take what could be a veiled shot at Durant.
— John N. Bowman (@7Bowman) March 2, 2017
@rmaver6 you gotta have 3 bad yrs then 1 good to go to league stuff. All is well. Hope the same for you
— John N. Bowman (@7Bowman) March 2, 2017
Maver was poking fun at himself for his lack of invite but also raising an interesting issue: there isn’t a single kicker or punter invited. While they may not be “stars” in the conventional sense, kicking is still a huge part of the Canadian game and a player like Winnipeg’s Justin Medlock is certainly well known to fans.
There are a few other glaring omissions. There are just 12 national players on the league’s list – a shockingly low number given that Canadian players make up close to half of all rosters and it’s, you know, the “Canadian” football league. Veteran Canadian receiver Andy Fantuz wasn’t invited and while he’s currently a free agent and recovering from knee surgery, two other injured receivers – B.C.’s Chris Williams and Montreal’s S.J Green – made the cut.
Calgary linebacker Alex Singleton, an up and coming national star, is paying his own way to see his younger brother compete in the combine, which is also being held this week. B.C. receiver Shawn Gore – the team’s top Canadian last season – wasn’t invited nor was Edmonton pass catcher Shamawd Chambers or linebacker Cory Greenwood. The Argos, meanwhile, are bringing Canadian receiver Brian Jones, who has 12 catches for his career.
Much of the league’s Canadian content comes from the big boys up front and there is just one offensive lineman invited to this week’s festivities: American Derek Dennis. That the CFL has chosen to completely ignore national players at this position – and there are some interesting people and colourful characters – is perhaps the biggest oversight of the week.
Defensive backs didn’t get much love either with just two Canadian safeties making the cut with not a single American making the trip.
Three teams have relatively small contingents with just five players each: the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (who didn’t bring receiver Darvin Adams) the Calgary Stampeders and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Among the Ticats, return man Brandon Banks is something of a notable absence as is defensive end John Chick, an all-star last season and a guy with plenty of Saskatchewan connections.
CFL Week is the league’s latest attempt to make some noise during its long off-season and the idea has plenty of potential. Making sure a full cross section of players from every position are included – and a few more Canadians – is something they should consider in the future.
Note: Be sure to check out 3DownNation.com for full coverage of CFL Week, including interviews, videos and podcasts.
The players invited to CFL Week
B.C. Lions (6)
Calgary Stampeders (5)
Bo Levi Mitchell
Edmonton Eskimos (6)
Winnipeg Blue Bombers (5)
Saskatchewan Roughriders (9)
Montreal Alouettes (8)
Toronto Argonauts (7)
Ottawa Redblacks (6)
Hamilton Tiger-Cats (5)