Photo by Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.ca

Cue the panic alarm!

A few CFL free agents have signed with XFL squads and now some fans are worried about the possibility of losing the league’s stars to the new league.

Derek Dennis, SJ Green and others have gone south of the border, joining a league already in progress. Some have speculated that this is just the beginning of the end for the CFL.

On the other hand, the Calgary Stampeders recently re-signed Leon Johnson and that made me incredibly confused.

You see, the last I saw of Leon Johnson, he was the first in camp for the Houston Roughnecks, having driven to Houston from Calgary after being drafted by the XFL squad.

So the signing had me more than a little befuddled. Now, after some help from our own Jonathan Hudson and Postmedia’s Danny Austin, we established that Johnson wasn’t on Houston’s roster anymore and was therefore eligible to re-sign with the Stampeders.

The Stampeders were bullish on the Temple product last year; Derek Dennis recently referred to him on Twitter as his “heir apparent.”

But in all this confusion, a question I asked stuck with me. Why can’t players play in both leagues?

In addition to other things, I also work for the National Lacrosse League, providing analysis for Roughnecks home games. In lacrosse it is very common for players to have an NLL contract as well as a contract with the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL). They play NLL ball from November to late May and then the PLL starts in June and runs its 14-week season ending in September, leaving a short off-season before NLL camp resumes.

There is no real animosity between the leagues as they both look to grow viewership of the sport.

Why can’t this be the case for the XFL and CFL?

The schedules for the two leagues do not overlap. The CFL runs May-November and the XFL goes from January-April. Ticket sales are also not an issue as there are no competing markets with the leagues operating in different countries.

Yet within the new CFL CBA, there is language that specifically prohibits anything of that nature: “The player promises and agrees that during the term of the contract he will not play football for any other person, firm, Club, or corporation.”

I would like to live in a world where that wasn’t the case, if only to allow for the development of players to occur in a live game setting.

Maybe an American player would head north of the border and put off selling insurance to his high school alumni for another few years if he could double dip and get game cheques almost year round.

This could also reduce the need for minimum salary caps to be higher as they were raised by $10,000 this past offseason.

You could play year round, if you chose to, which would also allow for players to get more tape of themselves in different professional situations.

I understand the physical toll football can put on a body. Playing on the line can feel like being in a series of car crashes and some players need the off-season to heal and recover physically and mentally to prepare for the following season.

But maybe, just maybe, not all of them would.

We are already moving towards a stream of one year contracts in the CFL as players want to maximize their ability to earn, so why not open this to them as well?

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Ryan Ballantine
Ryan Ballantine is a lifelong Stamps fan and host of the Horsemen Radio Podcast. He has been covering the team since 2008.