League gets Lawrence suspension right

Photo courtesy: Drew Edwards

When the CFL does something foolish — like they did less than a week ago — I am the first to criticize.

So let me be one of the first to applaud them for doing the right thing in issuing a two-game suspension to Simoni Lawrence for his dangerous, reckless and unnecessary late hit on Zach Collaros last Thursday.

The league could have easily hit Lawrence with a one-game suspension, or simply a fine, and used past precedence to justify it. But instead, the league decided that it was basically going to wipe the slate clean and begin anew when it comes to disciplining players for dangerous play.

That’s a good thing, and while it has taken them too long to do this, we still need to commend the CFL for starting to do it now. No one wants to see hits like the one we saw on Thursday, and no matter your fandom or team loyalty, you should want to see those hits eliminated from the game so we can all enjoy seeing great players keep playing the game we love to watch.

Unlike some, including some on this very site, I don’t think Lawrence’s hit ranks as one of the worst of all time. It’s probably not even the worst that Collaros has taken in the last year. But just because the league whiffed on previous late hits doesn’t mean Lawrence should get a pass or a lesser sentence. The hit he delivered was late, and he deserves the punishment he was handed.

But that wasn’t the only hit this past weekend that warrants closer scrutiny, as a pair of hits in two other games deserve to have the spotlight shined on them just as much as Lawrence deserves the spotlight on him. Those hits are ones delivered by Calgary’s Cory Greenwood and Edmonton’s Money Hunter.

During the second half of Calgary’s surprising loss at home to the Ottawa Redblacks, Cory Greenwood laid a very late, very unnecessary hit to the head and neck area of Ottawa running back Mossis Madu.

Madu left the game after that hit and did not return.

That hit did not light up social media like Lawrence’s hit did, but it is just as worthy of supplementary. Greenwood arrives well after Madu is down and the hit was completely unnecessary. Just like the Collaros hit, we need to take hits like Greenwood’s out of the game and the best way to do that is with a suspension.

On Friday night, Montreal’s Antonio Pipkin was hit late by Edmonton’s Money Hunter. While the hit wasn’t as dangerous as the one’s delivered by Lawrence and Greenwood, it was still very late and very unnecessary.

In both cases the ball carrier is already down, just like Collaros was. Yet as of this writing we have not heard a peep from the league on either one of these hits. I get that Lawrence’s hit on Collaros made the biggest headlines — first game of the season, Collaros’ history of injuries, Riders fans being involved — but the other two hits are equally as unacceptable and should be dealt with in a similar fashion.

We can argue semantics as to which hit is worse, but it isn’t a competition. Either we are for getting late head hits out of the game or we aren’t. We can’t just be happy with one player being punished for an unnecessary late hit, but we need to see all players taken to task for their hits. That is how we eliminate this stuff from the game, not by punishing just one player.

The CFL did everything right in suspending Simoni Lawrence for two games, but there is still progress to be made. Suspending Lawrence was a step in the right direction, but it shouldn’t be the last step. The league needs to be tough on all late-hit offenders, whether those hits come to star quarterbacks or players at other positions.

Lawrence is getting the punishment he deserves; now we can only hope other players will get what they deserve as well.

Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.