Practice roster rules have Lions seeing green

If it happens once, it’s amusing. Twice, potentially a bit irritating. A third time? Now it’s become something of a gag line for fans of the B.C. Lions on social media.

Want to make it with the Saskatchewan Roughriders? Make sure the Lions take you in the Canadian college draft.

Rookie offensive lineman Jeremy Zver became the latest to continue his career path in similar fashion when he was picked up by Saskatchewan this week upon being released by the Lions.

To be clear, the Riders did nothing wrong, which is not something that can always be said by an organization which had a six-figure bill for roster misdeeds last year. They also played by the rules last season when the Lions cut draft picks Ese Mrabure-Ajufo and Dillon Guy and were picked up by Saskatchewan.

Three-quarters of the Riders’ starting defensive line and six current defenders overall once took cheques signed by David Braley. In a small league, it happens.

Lions coach/GM Wally Buono also knew exactly what would happen at the end of training camp and had to make a roster decision on Zver, a 23-year-old who was a second-round pick this season from the University of Regina.

Buono put Zver on the one-game injured list to start the season because he said he knew the Riders would take him if he tried putting him on the practice roster. A week later, Buono tried doing just that and Zver quickly moved home.

So the Lions knew exactly what would happen, and at this point are rightly focused on the continuation of their three-game East Division sojourn and a date Thursday with the Montreal Alouettes.

It’s a topic the Lions can one day take up with Randy Ambrosie to see if he can get some traction with the CFLPA about keeping the rights of drafted players longer than training camp as a means to aid development. Ambrosie takes in his first game as the league’s new commissioner Thursday.

The way the Lions boss sees things now though, it’s the player who is missing out.

“We’ve talked to the league about things that would prevent that but at this point that hasn’t occurred and probably won’t,” Buono said on his weekly appearance on the team’s radio flagship station. “A player has the choice whether to accept a PR spot. Yes, there is a better way but no, the union won’t allow you to do it.

“As much as we call get frustrated I’m not going to worry about it. We’ll bring in someone in here next week and he’ll be coached by the best offensive line coach in Canada (Lions assistant Dan Dorazio) and in time he’ll be good.”

It’s pretty clear Zver isn’t too bothered about not having to explore Vancouver’s out-of-control housing market on a practice roster stipend.

“I don’t have to find a spot (to rent) now in Vancouver. I can live at home and sleep in my own bed,” he said on riderville.com, the Riders’ website.

One draft analyst suggested that making a case of a practice roster player is much ado about nothing. In the week prior to his release, Zver hardly had a half-dozen non-scout team reps with the Lions.

“In any other draft (Zver) probably gets taken in round six or seven. But because he was inflated in a bad draft now he’s highlighted a bit,” said TSN’s Farhan Lalji, who hosts the network’s draft coverage, on 3Down Radio this week. “If he were close (the Lions) would have found a way to keep him but he was miles away so we shouldn’t hand-wring over this one.”

Buono previously spearheaded the closure of a loophole that allowed players with remaining USports/CIS eligibility to become free agents but graduates either must make an active CFL lineup or be subjected to the rules of the practice roster. It makes no sense, but the league or its player’s union hasn’t been compelled to yet find another way.

B.C. still has six players from the current draft class in camp, including two who agreed to practice roster spots, so it’s not as if the Lions have drafted poorly and may be a bigger reflection on the ability of the team taking the players with respect to their own Canadian content. Seeing B.C. players get cut, however, prompts an immediate reaction lately to see whether they’ll end up wearing other colours, like, well, green.

LIONS TALES: A short workweek based in Kingston, Ont., without the benefit of practice roster players back home is among the reasons the Lions will make no personnel changes among starters when they face six former Alouettes on the roster constructed by ex-offensive coordinator Jacques Chapdelaine. B.C. has taken nine sacks in its first two games but that isn’t enough for Buono to make a change with Antonio Johnson at right tackle, saying the blame has to be spread around. “Two of the sacks (against Toronto last week) the quarterback could have helped more. Our offensive line has to be better and our quarterback has to feel the pressure more,” Buono said… B.C. will fly home Friday and have a regular practice regimen at their Surrey facility next week prior to heading east again to face Hamilton July 15.

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