While this weekend’s CFL combine will feature dozens of players trying to jumpstart their professional careers, the person with the most to lose – and gain – might just be commissioner Randy Ambrosie.
The league is bringing 18 “global” players to Toronto to participate in the testing as part of Ambrosie’s CFL 2.0 initiative. The combine will be the first opportunity to see a large group of these players perform against some CFL-calibre prospects.
Should they struggle by posting low testing numbers or getting schooled in the one-on-ones, it will raise more questions about the legitimacy of Ambrosie’s initiatives which hinges, at least in part, on the ability of global players to actually play.
The early results were not particularly encouraging. In January, the league held a combine in Mexico that produced six players who would “not look out of place at CFL training camp.” Faint praise indeed. One CFL GM made it clear he didn’t see the trip as worth the effort.
Ambrosie and the league seem determined to see this through, however. Justin Dunk reported last week that the CFL is looking for designated “global” roster spots and TSN’s Dave Naylor has outlined his idea on how rosters could be structured going forward. Given Naylor’s close ties with the league there’s a solid a chance Naylor’s vision looks a lot like Ambrosie’s vision.
That plan would see global players competing for roster spots currently occupied by national players, a tacit admission the globals will not be able to take jobs from Americans based on merit alone. After all, there’s absolutely nothing stopping a player from Mexico or Norway or Germany earning a spot as an international under current CFL rules.
The gamble for the CFL is taking roster spots from Canadian players in order to accommodate global players; it risks alienating the league’s hardcore audience, the one that actually understands the roster rules and importance of the ratio. For those folks, Canadian content is a foundational element in their support for the CFL.
If global players can’t compete against the CFL’s top prospects – and we’re not even talking about established national players here – it will raise new questions about the legitimacy and viability of CFL 2.0.
On the flip side, if the global players perform well this weekend, it will give strength to Ambrosie’s argument that there is an untapped pool of quality players across the globe that the CFL would do well to take advantage of.
Ambrosie he may not be participating in the underwear Olympics that is the CFL combine but his vision for the CFL is certainly on display. And like everything else at the combine, it is certain to be judged.