DAVIS: Hammer rightfully stays down on Simoni Lawrence

Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Simoni Lawrence got what he deserved.

The only punishment more appropriate for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker would have been suspending him from the exact moment in the first quarter of the CFL season-opener against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, when he maliciously helmet-knocked defenceless, sliding quarterback Zach Collaros, until an arbitrator upheld Lawrence’s two-game suspension.

Lawrence will miss one game July 26 against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Hamilton’s Aug. 1 rematch, in Regina, against the Roughriders. Including Hamilton’s bye week, that’s 44 days from contact to consequences!

What a pathetic, interminable process the CFL is using to discipline its players. Brian Ramsay, the CFL Players’ Association’s executive director, told Rawlco Radio last month they had recommended, during negotiations earlier this year on a new collective bargaining agreement, establishing a panel of former players to determine appropriate punishments for on-field incidents.

The NFL uses a similar process. The CFL evidently refused to budge on its tried-and-failed method of meting out justice — relying solely on the commissioner, whose decision is always appealed.

Lawrence’s two-game suspension sets a precedent that can be used in future incidents, but who’s to say there won’t be more malicious hits in the future that may warrant three- or four-game suspensions? Lawrence’s hit was among the dirtiest ever inflicted, considering Collaros had given himself up by sliding (admittedly, poorly) on the play plus his former teammate knew the quarterback has a history of concussions. The CFL is trying to eradicate helmet-to-helmet hits so it may need to impose stricter discipline in the future. At least there’s now a starting point, with validation from an independent arbitrator.

Collaros was placed on the six-game injury list and hasn’t played since that hit. Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson confirmed to reporters their veteran quarterback suffered a concussion. Collaros has been recuperating at his Ontario home. There’s a strong, public sentiment for Collaros to retire, for the Roughriders to pay him the remainder of this year’s salary and say, “Thanks, Zach, but we can’t rely on you being able to play. We’re worried about your health. Good luck going forward with your life.”

Although Lawrence wasn’t ejected for the vicious hit, his roughing-the-passer penalty was upgraded to 25 yards (from 15) and he was initially suspended for two games by CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie. The CFL Players’ Association was obligated to appeal the suspension upon Lawrence’s request. He played four games in the interim, finally met last week with an arbitrator, reportedly for 12 hours, and one week later the league announced the two-game suspension had been upheld. Starting with the CFL office, there’s a belief justice has been upheld. And maybe it has been a learning experience for everyone involved.

Darrell Davis has reported on the Riders for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2006.