B.C. Lions GM seeks a better way after Euclid Cummings debacle

There’s an understandable desire by Ed Hervey to move past the most embarrassing moment of the winter for the B.C. Lions but that doesn’t mean the general manager of the CFL team wants the league to forget the events which led to the exit of Euclid Cummings.

The prize free agent defensive lineman was a member of the Lions for less than a month when his contract was voided by commissioner Randy Ambrosie once four criminal sexual assault-related charges involving two alleged victims stemming from a 2016 incident in Vancouver came to light.

Hervey met with Cummings in Atlanta during the Lions’ free agent tryout safari and isn’t interested in revisiting what allegedly took place, nor passing judgment on the case until it goes through the court system.

What is beneficial, he told 3DownNation, would be if the league can help teams find a better way to screen players to ensure they are eligible to be signed, as suggested by the commissioner when he moved on Cummings prior to his day in court.

“That was probably the biggest secret in the league,” said Hervey, who signed Cummings twice without knowledge of the alleged incidents, including a deal in February 2017 a few weeks before he was fired as general manager of the Edmonton Eskimos.

Cummings was charged two weeks after Hervey was replaced as general manager by Brock Sunderland, whose team benefitted by having the lineman in the Edmonton lineup all last season without knowledge of the situation.

“I treated it like a guy who gets injured for the year. I’m not one to whine,” said Hervey. “The situation itself probably could have been (handled) differently. I think it was one of those things that fell through the cracks. We got the hot potato.”

The potato was hottest when Cummings was a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who stated they became aware the player was being investigated by Vancouver police and passed that information onto the league.

Ambrosie said he was proud of the way the league responded once the facts surfaced but weeks later still hasn’t provided teams with a means to ensure a repeat scenario is avoided, such as forcing players and agents to disclose issues as a framework for signing a contract.

It has left the Lions asking themselves what might happen if Cummings is cleared of the charges, and whether the league could share information better.

The CFL has issued internal bulletins involving players who are facing legal challenges in the past.

“We were given more warning on Ray Rice,” said Hervey, referring to the former Baltimore Ravens running back who was eventually indicted for sexual assault but not before inquiring about the CFL.

Rice got his day in court but in a reflection of the growing intolerance of sexual assault in recent months, Cummings will get his chance only after his contract was voided. Cummings’ trial, TSN reported, is scheduled for October.

Targeting a player in free agency is as much a choice as it is a gamble, and the Lions ended up victims while Hervey’s old team escaped trouble. In an interview on TSN Radio-Edmonton after free agency, Sunderland said his two biggest free agent targets were linebacker Adam Konar and Cummings. Konar re-signed with the Eskimos, who would have faced a different kind of scrutiny if free agency went another way.

The only bright spot for the Lions, on the other hand, is that they were made aware of the Cummings case just prior to paying a reported $70,000 contract bonus. That payment would have counted under the league’s salary management system and effectively cost the Lions a player should they need a replacement during the season.

“The B.C. Lions weren’t just embarrassed (by Cummings). Our league was embarrassed. It’s a valuable lesson for the entire league” said Hervey.

“We operate individually when we go to compete and get our players however there comes a time when we need to operate as one. We have to put our collective heads together knowing that we’re looking to improve our vetting process.”

Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.