‘Extremely frustrating that we’re not playing, the league is pissed off’: Antoine Pruneau

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Canadian defensive back Antoine Pruneau has watched many other pro leagues play in 2020 amid the pandemic while the CFL is on the sidelines.

The 31-year-old wants to be on the field competing for a Grey Cup.

“It’s extremely frustrating that we’re not playing. Not just on the players’ side, I think the league is pissed off, they really thought it was going to happen. We’re all frustrated, you look at all the other sports that have been able to play,” Pruneau told Postmedia reporter Tim Baines.

“It’s hard to watch other people play football right now, it’s tough to understand why we couldn’t be doing the same thing. The plan we had in place was good. We just needed a bit of financial help. The government is helping us now, but they’re not getting the product they could have gotten.”

Pruneau was happy to see many in the CFL Players’ Association gain access to either the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit or the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy to help players through COVID-19 in 2020. Whether the league can return to play in 2021 will be the next major question to answer and collective bargaining is likely to play a role.

“It’s definitely in the CFL’s interests to change the CBA for next year. Our stance hasn’t changed the whole time — if they’ve got a suggestion, we’ll take a look at it, our door is open. But we’re satisfied with the CBA as it is right now,” said Pruneau, who serves as one of Ottawa’s CFLPA representatives.

“The league understands that, they haven’t tried to push us. Those discussions will happen as soon as we elect our reps and as soon as they’re done reshaping the business on their side. The CFL has more to figure out on their side than we have to figure out on our side.”

The 2014 first-round CFL draft pick has played six seasons in the CFL. Pruneau has suited up in 93 games, making 321 tackles, 56 special teams stops, nine interceptions, four forced fumbles and four sacks while scoring one defensive touchdown. He wants the chance to add to his game total and play pro football again in the future.

“I’m nervous, I’m anxious … I’m all of the above. It’s tough for a guy like me — I’m 31 years old — if the league was shut down for another year and they struggle to get back to normal, this could be the end of my career.

“I really don’t want it to end that way. I feel like I still have a lot of football left in me so I’m hoping to get back on the field soon. We have to make every move we can to make sure there’s a season in 2021.”

Regardless of what happens with COVID-19 in the coming months, Pruneau us confident the three-down league can be back on the field next year.