CFL (sort of) explains how officials missed call on Lulay hit

The CFL has explained how its officials missed the blatant roughing the passer call against B.C. Lions quarterback Travis Lulay in last Friday’s win over the Ottawa Redblacks.

A video of the play was posted to the league’s football operations web page on Thursday, along with an explanation voiced by contributor and Hamilton Tiger-Cats radio play-by-play man Marshall Ferguson.

“When the defender contacts the passer with their helmet as the initial or primary point of contact, regardless of where on the passer’s body the contact is made. On this play, Ottawa No. 44 lowers his head and delivers a blow with his helmet as the initial and primary point of contact on the B.C. quarterback. This meets the standard for roughing the passer and should have been called on this play.

“Although obvious from the television replay, the referee here must judge two separate hits on the quarterback at close proximity at full speed. Unfortunately, he misses the call.

“Player safety continues to be the CFL’s top priority. Ottawa No. 44 has gone through the supplemental discipline process and has been issued a fine for this dangerous and illegal hit.”

While it’s not specified in the explanation, the Redblacks player involved was J.R. Tavai, who was fined earlier this week, and referee in question – who also goes unidentified – is Tim Kroeker.

The CFL should be commended for at least taking a stab at accountability on this issue but there’s clearly room for improvement. The clip is identified only as “Football Operations Series – Week 13 – Roughing The Passer,” which isn’t exactly a dead giveaway that the league is pointing out an error. The clip was released a full six days after the game was played, hardly an expedient analysis of what was a pretty clear-cut mistake.

And while I’ve raised this issue before, using Ferguson instead of CFL director of officiating Darren Hackwood to narrate these clips robs them of some necessary gravitas. While we can safely assume this isn’t Ferguson’s opinion on the matter, the fact that Hackwood isn’t mentioned is, at the very least, unfortunate.

Compare the CFL’s handling of this issue to how the NFL dealt with a similar mistake in the Pittsburgh Steelers game against the Cleveland Browns last Sunday.

By Monday, the league’s website had a specific and extensive story on the error – headline ‘Officiating chief: Refs erred on call against Browns’ Myles Garrett – featuring quotes from Al Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating. Other news sites picked up the story from there. The NFL acknowledged its mistake quickly and in detail using a voice who has both the knowledge and the authority to speak on the issue. Like the CFL, the NFL used the story to reiterate its player safety message.

Again, the CFL under commissioner Randy Ambrosie and Hackwood has made some progress on accountability and transparency when it comes to officiating. But there is still clearly room for improvement.

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