Photo courtesy Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

There has been an entire Canadian Football League season played without a final copy of the collective bargaining agreement.

Team personnel men, players and agents operated based on the basic guidelines of the CBA. They were forced to operate without specific details and rely heavy on uncertainty. Let’s use the reapplication of the NFL window for example.

As it reads in the tentative CBA:

NFL window reinstated

After 2019 season option to sign in NFL after each year of contract.

Following all the franchises being consulted, commissioner Randy Ambrosie reinstalled the time period for players with expiring agreements. But more importantly, every player with a contract in the three-down league was supposed to be able to take advantage of the opportunity to work out and potentially sign with NFL teams.

The CFL office and CFL Players’ Association never cleared the new stipulation with the NFL or NFLPA. The NFL distributed a memo to its 32 member franchises.

“As a reminder, NFL clubs may not request to try out, negotiate with, or sign CFL players who are under contract to a CFL club for the 2020 season including players entering an option year.” 

The last six words were underlined: including players entering an option year. Players who inked longer than one-year contracts with their respective CFL teams were under the impression an NFL shot could come any year if earned. But because the proper steps were not taken, players are being held out of NFL work outs.

Football operations people are waiting for the particulars on the American veteran ratio which is supposed to require a minimum of three starters per club. An American player with three consecutive years with one team or four years of CFL service meets the criteria for the new initiative. There is an ability for American veterans to substitute for injured Canadians and nationals can replace injured American veterans.

A lot of grey area exists around the substitution rules, which could change the way rosters are put together. It’s literally holding up player signings — re-signings are being delayed. Ambrosie said at his state of the league address during Friday of Grey Cup week, the CBA was finalized.

“There was a lot of language that was new in the agreement, so you know, there was a back-and-forth basically all season long. Steve Shamie’s going to give me heck for this later, but you know, lawyers get billed by the hour, so sometimes it takes them time to get these things done,” Ambrosie said.

“But Steve, I think we can say that the language has all been now hammered out and we have the final — final, final version. That will now find its way into the public domain. But it did take some time to get to that.”

But there remains no final version in the hands of those who need it most. No one in their right mind would sign a contract without knowing all the details, but the players trusted both the league and PA to play under generalities for a year. Yet there’s only short bullet points without exact wording and it’s been to the detriment of the players.

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Justin Dunk is one of the founders of the new 3DownNation.