Riders quarterback Zach Collaros says the league isn’t doing enough on player safety

Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Zach Collaros says the CFL isn’t doing enough when it comes to player safety.

Speaking to the media on Tuesday for the first time after re-signing as a free agent the day before, Collaros was asked if the league was taking the necessary steps to protect CFL quarterbacks.

“No,” he answered bluntly.

Collaros, who has missed multiple games due to concussions throughout his career – including two separate stints last season – pointed to the NFL, which introduced a number of new player safety initiatives before in the 2018 season.

“I think the NFL did a better job of it this year and they had a pretty good season down there, especially from an offensive standpoint, trying to protect those guys,” Collaros said.

Collaros was at the centre of controversy last October after taking an illegal hit from B.C.’s Odell Willis and staying in the game, despite clearly suffering from the aftereffects of the contact. The league introduced a dedicated official to look for hits on the quarterback for the remainder of the season but has yet to announce any rule or procedural changes for 2019.

“I’m not in talks with anyone from the league but until it becomes a main priority, it kind of is what it is,” Collaros said. “There’s not much of a penalty for the hit. If you knock a guy out of the game but you can stay in the game, wouldn’t you do that?”

The Collaros play was just one of a number controversial hits last season that weren’t penalized, like the one on Travis Lulay or this one on Mike Reilly or the one on Bo Levi Mitchell.

Collaros said the CFL should consider adopting the approach used in U.S. college football, which uses replay to identify targeting penalties that are subject to immediate ejection. The CFL has a second replay official – the “eye in the sky” – to correct inefficiencies surrounding yardage and minor infraction but they don’t use it to penalize players for blatant head shots.

“I think it would be a good step moving forward, but again I don’t make the decisions,” Collaros said. “I don’t know if it’s helped the play down there but it’s helped player safety. It’s made defenders or even offensive guys more cautious about taking that cheap shot.”

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