‘Not a game worth playing’: Redblacks GM Marcel Desjardins warns against ‘going down the rabbit hole’ of XFL speculation

Never before has the CFL faced such uncertainty.

Whether it be the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forcing the likely postponement of the 2021 season, financial ramifications of the canceled 2020 campaign, or the continuing conversation on alignment with the XFL.

That has all been extremely difficult for players, coaches, and staff alike, but as general manager of the Ottawa Redblacks, Marcel Desjardins tries to force those questions out of his mind.

“I don’t dwell on it, I don’t think about it — I can’t control it. I don’t know what’s going to happen,” the long-time CFL personnel man said on TSN 1200 radio in Ottawa.

Spreading that message throughout the organization can be a little more difficult.

“You have some people, just their personality is gonna allow them to play the what . if game to different degrees. I just try to reinforce that we can’t change it,” Desjardins explained.

“We have this to deal with right now, whether that’d be a global draft or free agency or whatever, let’s just focus on that. It’s not worth your time and energy to play that game of what if.”

With the 2021 season likely to be delayed next week and COVID cases rising, the CFL remains on shaky financial footing with no light at the end of the tunnel yet gleaming. Reports suggest the league collectively lost between $60 and $80 million by not playing last season.

The answer to these financial difficulties may lie in the XFL, as the owners from both leagues have agreed to work together to identify opportunities to innovate and grow the game of football. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has stated he’s excited for the ‘unique opportunity’ the CFL and XFL ‘can potentially create together.’

The most recent incarnation of the XFL lasted just five games before the COVID-19 pandemic put their season on hold, which led to Vince McMahon filing for bankruptcy and selling.

Johnson, Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital were selected as the winning bidders last August for all of the assets of Alpha Entertainment LLC, the parent company of the XFL. It cost $15 million and the goal is to make the XFL a stable league in the future, which could be aided by a merger with the CFL.

That has led to rampant speculation as to what the potential consequences of such an alignment might be, but Desjardins isn’t having it.

“You’re wasting your energy with all these assumptions, because at the end of the day 99.9 percent of them are probably not going to come to fruition. Just let it play out and we can talk about it,” he insisted.

“It’s not a big deal to talk about it, whether that’d be one-on-one or as a group. I have no issues talking about it, but don’t allow yourself to go down that rabbit hole where you’re concerned at every turn with respect to whether it be your own situation, the club’s situation, the league’s situation, whatever — it’s just not a game worth playing.”

Though he remains focused on the here and now, a CFL lifer like Desjardins does have concerns that eat at him. He’ll stay tight-lipped on the XFL, but no matter what happens the league he loves must survive.

“I’ve been around the league since 1994, I was at the league office when we had US expansion the first time around,” Desjardins said.

“I know the decision-makers are going to do what they feel is best for the long term of our league, but I do feel we have to protect the integrity of what the CFL is, whatever that looks like.”

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