In the past, the CFL was seen as the innovator when it came to various aspects of running a professional sports league.
Whether you liked what they did or not — an example is making pass interference challengeable, which the NFL followed suit on this past off-season — you couldn’t say the CFL just sat idly by and twiddled its thumbs waiting for one of the “big boys” to get the ball rolling on something.
But one area where the league has failed to be at the forefront is player safety and player discipline. It is something I have harped on numerous times over the last year. Whether it is letting Jonathan Rose get away with shoving an official, letting Greg Ellington pay a fine for doing something similar to what Charleston Hughes did or any number of dangerous play issues that have come up last season, the CFL has seemingly dropped the ball each and every time.
The latest example of the NFL taking this issue much more seriously than the CFL occurred when Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett was suspended indefinitely for swinging a helmet at Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph. If that reminded you of Vernon Adams Jr. doing the same to Adam Bighill you weren’t alone.
There are some CFL apologists out there who will say that the incidents weren’t the same and that they shouldn’t be dealt with in the same manner, but that’s hogwash. Both Garrett and Adams swung a helmet at an opposing player with the intent to hurt them.
The fact that Garrett connected and Adams didn’t, shouldn’t, and doesn’t, matter. The intent was the same and yet one (Adams) was handed a paltry one-game suspension. Whereas the other (Garrett) missed the remainder of Cleveland’s games, which would be six and fined $45,623.
I am well aware that there are limitations in place because of the collective bargaining agreement, but sometimes you need to take a stand. The CFL did not with Adams (or any of the other non-Simoni-Lawrence infractions last year) and instead a slap on the wrist now looks even worse after seeing what the NFL did following the on-field altercation in Cleveland.
The CFL needs to get back to being the progressive, ahead-of-the-curve, operation it has long been. In many ways, the league is still that, but on the issue of player safety and discipline they are still woefully behind the times. I’m probably as sick of writing about it as you are reading it, but until the league office starts taking this stuff as seriously as they should, I am going to keep badgering.
For the start of a new decade and year in 2020, I have one plea for the CFL: figure this out before the start of next season. No more dithering, no more wishy-washy stances. Get real about this and do it before kick-off in June. You will have six months; there is no excuse.
You say you want to be about that player safety life, right? You want to “walk all of this talk in a meaningful way” as the commissioner said back last June?
This winter will be the time to prove it.