CFL medical committee shuts down proposal for Bombers, Riders pre-season scrimmage

Photo courtesy: Matt Smith

The Canadian Football League’s medical experts erred on the side of caution, declining to sign off on a proposal for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders to hold a controlled scrimmage in late July.

The prairie rivals had discussed the idea with Winnipeg general manager Kyle Walters and head coach Mike O’Shea collaborating with Saskatchewan general manager Jeremy O’Day and head coach Craig Dickenson.

“When the schedule came out with no pre-season games, it was discussed, but ultimately it was not approved by the CFL and the medical teams,” said Walters in a videoconference. “Unfortunately, it just wasn’t able to come to fruition and we’ll just follow what the medical guys tell us to do.”

CFL teams won’t play pre-season games prior to kicking off the regular season August 5. Winnipeg will hold their training camp at IG Field and the Riders plan to do the same at Mosaic Stadium. Training camps are scheduled to begin on July 10 across the league and each team will be allowed to have 100 players at camp.

Regina is just over a six-hour drive from the Manitoba capital and current public health conditions would have made it easier to operate the sessions in Saskatchewan. Late in July could have been an ideal timeline after both teams had enough of their own practices to feel comfortable competing against another team.

“We were going through the process of preparing to have a scrimmage and there was a lot of things that needed to be checked off for us to be able to do that. When we presented it to the medical committee, they didn’t allow us to have the scrimmage,” O’Day said.

“The reason is we’re really just trying to just mitigate as much risk of bringing COVID into any of the teams. They looked at that as it would potentially introduce more risk than we needed to introduce while we were in training camp.”

The two teams had picked out July 24 as the date for the controlled scrimmage. The Riders were going to cover the Bombers’ costs of traveling to Regina with Saskatchewan drawing revenue from ticket sales.

“Jeremy and myself and Mike and Dickie talked about how it makes perfect sense to investigate a scrimmage and at least throw some ideas around if it was a possibility,” Walters said.

“We’re not going to have the scrimmage. The medical committee reviewed it and basically ruled against it. They really just don’t want to add any added risks into our situation. It was more mitigating the risk and reducing the chances of COVID, so it was denied,” O’Day said.

Saskatchewan’s prairie rival visits Mosaic Stadium for the Labour Day Classic on Sunday, September 5 with the Banjo Bowl slated for Saturday, September 11 in Winnipeg. The Bombers open the schedule hosting the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, while the Riders play one day later — Friday, August 6 — at home versus the B.C. Lions.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.