CFLPA leadership says ‘tragic’ Achilles tears ‘shouldn’t be happening as they are’

Canadian Football League Players’ Association executive director Brian Ramsay and president Solomon Elimimian had some strong words about the number of players who have suffered serious injuries in training camps this season.

“This is something that’s top of mind for us and we don’t think should happen. We understand that there’s an injury rate in professional football, but these specific instances shouldn’t be happening as they are,” said Ramsay on The Rod Pedersen Show.

“We’re not seeing it across every team — we’ve seen it in specific instances. We’ve done research in other leagues that have restarted. Obviously this was something that was top of mind for us and we pressed upon the months leading up to this season. It’s something that is important for us to continue to investigate this.”

The Saskatchewan Roughriders had four players suffer torn Achilles tendons before training camp officially got underway. The Montreal Alouettes had two, while it was announced on Monday that Mercy Maston of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers had suffered a torn Achilles as well.

“It’s very unfortunate. It’s a tragic circumstance and it shouldn’t have happened. Our job with the association is to put safeguards in place so injuries like this doesn’t happen. I spoke to Larry (Dean), I spoke to Coach Dickenson, trying to understand how it happened and more-so how to prevent something like this from happening in the future,” said Elimimian.

The former CFL Most Outstanding Player suffered a torn Achilles in August 2015 when he was a member of the B.C. Lions. He returned the following year and had a sensational season, winning the league’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player award.

“It is an injury that’s very tricky — a lot of players don’t come back from it,” said Elimimian. “I was fortunate to come back from it and it was really the off-season work and the grind that I put into it. It was probably one of the greatest achievements that I’ve had because I know how hard it was, but Larry is a champion. He’s a great guy, he works hard, I’ve known Larry for many years and he’ll come back better than ever.”

Ramsay remains frustrated by the rash of injuries, but indicated that the CFL and CFLPA worked together well to mitigate the damage of the COVID-19 pandemic. The league’s current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire in the spring, which means the two sides will return to the bargaining table soon where they’ll look to strike a fair deal that leads to long-term success.

“I think there’s a really good understanding in the membership that we’ve been able to work with the CFL the last two years to ensure that we get an opportunity to play football and get back to work. We worked closely again this year as we did last year to ensure that we took into consideration the challenges the pandemic had and our membership understood that, but there’s definitely a unity within our group right now that understands that there needs to be changes moving forward to ensure that the league grows and that we grow together,” said Ramsay.

There was a rash of retirements that swept across the CFL ahead of training camp with household names such as Brad Sinopoli, Alex Mateas, Taylor Loffler, and Courtney Stephen stepping away from the game. Elimimian believes a lack of communication from the league was a factor in players being forced to reconsider their futures.

“Guys had to figure out how to survive. The trouble with the league that we had was there wasn’t enough clarity from last year or even up until this year in terms of when guys were supposed to get back on the football field. You gotta make the decision that’s best for your family. Looking back at it, guys chose that the opportunities outside of football were greater than the ones that football presented,” said Elimimian.

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