There isn’t much by the way of Canadian content when it comes to the players invited to CFL Week.
Of the 53 players travelling to Winnipeg next week, just eight – or 15 per cent – qualify as nationals. Given the league is almost half Canadian (21 of the 44 players on a game day roster must be nationals) the lack of homegrown talent at the CFL’s showcase off-season event seems low.
The lineup decisions for CFL Week are a collective effort that includes the league office, the individual clubs and broadcaster TSN, who uses the event to produce an array of promotional material to be used throughout the season. Input from other media outlets, including the print, digital and radio outlets who cover the league on an ongoing basis, is not part of the process.
“Players are chosen together by TSN, RDS and the CFL. Teams are consulted, but the choices rest with our broadcasters and the league. The key events are the TSN/RDS video and photo shoot as well as the media days,” a league spokesman said in a statement. “In other words, this is a marketing event, not an all-star team selection. Unfortunately, budgets do not allow us to invite an even greater number although there are several other great players we would love to include.”
While the eight national selections were certainly worthy – Alex Singleton, Ted Laurent, Andrew Harris, Taylor Loffler, Jamaal Westerman, Jerome Messam, Brad Sinopoli, Cleyon Laing – there were plenty of others who should have made the cut. Canadian quarterbacks Brandon Bridge and Andrew Buckley – an obvious choice given Bo Levi Mitchell’s excused absence – would have been worthy additions.
The list is devoid of offensive lineman (more on that in a bit) but even staying with the skilled positions, players like Winnipeg’s Nic Demski, Saskatchewan’s Rob Bagg and B.C.’s Shaq Johnson would have fit the bill. Defensive backs like Arjen Colquhoun – the Eskimos do not have a single Canadian among their five invitees – Hamilton’s Courtney Stephen and Toronto’s Matt Black (both interesting guys heavily involved in their communities) would have been excellent choices. Eskimo linebacker Adam Konar is a legit ratio-breaker who deserves more attention.
Bu the lack of Canadian players was hardly the only oversight. Here are five large omissions from the league’s list.
1. Duron Carter.
We did an entire post about the fact that the Saskatchewan receiver isn’t officially invited but is still planning to show up in Winnipeg and he would definitely face some questions about his two pending possession charges a simple “I can’t talk about it because it’s before the courts,” would deal with those queries.
The fact that Carter is still coming to do TSN shoots is an indicator that the team and the league still expect him to play next season, regardless of his legal troubles, and that he’s a big enough star to justify the trip.
Carter has the capacity to generate good publicity for the CFL as well and has done so on several occasions, including giving away a game ball to a cancer survivor and taking Rider fans to the movies during the playoffs. He’s a polarizing figure who generates plenty of discussion and debate and isn’t that what CFL Week is supposed to be about?
2. French Canadians
The CFL has two teams, Ottawa and Montreal, that depend on support from French Canadians and yet invited just a single player – Hamilton’s Ted Laurent – with strong French language skills. The Redblacks’ Antoine Pruneau would have been an obvious choice as is Saskatchewan’s Marc-Olivier Brouillette. Again, the CFL’s aversion to offensive lineman means that players like Montreal centre Luc Brodeur-Jourdain aren’t included.
3. Offensive lineman
Zero. That’s the number of offensive lineman coming to CFL Week, a decrease from the one (then-Roughrider Derek Dennis) who made the trip last year.
While we understand that offensive lineman rarely become stars in the CFL, they are some of the most articulate guys in the game. Hamilton’s Mike Filer, Toronto’s Chris Van Zeyl and Saskatchewan’s Peter Dyakowski are just three examples of good players who give excellent interviews on a regular basis.
Including at least a few offensive linemen – and there are eight defensive linemen on the list – would raise the Canadian content as well as the level of discourse (ask Dyakowski what it means.)
Again, zero kickers on the list. Given their importance in deciding the outcome of games, you would think that giving them a bit more profile would make sense. And like the offensive lineman, there are a number of articulate kickers who represent the league well, including Calgary’s Rob Maver, Hamilton’s Lirim Hajrullahu and Winnipeg’s Justin Medlock. Saskatchewan punter Josh Bartel would never come back early from Australia but he’s a terrific interview.
5. The next generation of stars
Of 53 players on this year’s list, 32 were invited to CFL Week last year and while some of that duplication is to be expected, it would have been nice to see some up-and-comers on the list. Of the nine players who won Most Outstanding Rookie for their respective teams, just three are coming to CFL Week. The excluded list includes a number of American defensive backs and a kicker but Edmonton’s Kwaku Boateng, a Canadian defensive end, would have been a worthy inclusion.
Other names who deserve the attention that CFL Week might have offered include Hamilton receiver Jalen Saunders, Toronto’s Shawn Lemon, Martese Jackson and T.J. Heath, Winnipeg’s Chandler Fenner and Montreal’s Branden Dozier – just to name a few.
CFL Week is a great initiative – 3Down will be covering it again this year – but the CFL and its partners need to expand their narrow view of who the league’s stars are and who they could be.