Monday Mailbag: CFL fan vaccination requirement, Canadian quarterback Michael O’Connor

Photo courtesy: Candice Ward/Calgary Stampeders.com

The 3DownNation Monday Mailbag answers questions from readers across the country every week.

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We’ve answered a handful of questions below. If your question didn’t get picked, don’t panic — we’ll save it to potentially answer here next week or on the 3DownNation Podcast.

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I don’t know why the CFL doesn’t get it together and put in place a vaccine protocol for all players, personnel and especially fans. It’s ridiculous to have to worry about giving or getting COVID from some nitwit sitting close to you who didn’t get vaccinated.

Come on CFL owners, grow a spine and be leaders instead of followers. Go Redblacks!

-Ed Aiston

Thanks for the message, Ed.

Let’s start with the issue of fans. Currently, Manitoba is the only province in which you must show proof of vaccination in order to attend a CFL game.

The seven-day average in Manitoba when the Blue Bombers played their first regular season game on Aug. 5 was 27 new cases per day. Two weeks later, the seven-day average had remained essentially the same at 28 cases per day.

The seven-day average in Saskatchewan when the Roughriders opened their season on Aug. 6 was 57 new cases per day. Two weeks later, the seven-day average had grown to 146 cases per day.

I’m not an epidemiologist and I realize that CFL games are just one of many potential factors in the spread of COVID-19. With that said, these numbers make it easy to see why vaccinated individuals are choosing not to attend large public gatherings unless a vaccine requirement is in place.

Saskatchewan warned of possible exposure on a shuttle bus and in Pil Country with nine confirmed cases stemming from the home opener. Reports like these will dissuade hesitant fans from choosing to attend games so long as unvaccinated people are eligible to attend.

We haven’t seen any such reports out of Manitoba where all fans are required to be fully vaccinated. The Winnipeg Jets have installed the same requirement ahead of the NHL season, as has MLSE (ie. the Argonauts) starting in mid-September.

I’m sure organizations are fearful of losing business to those who refuse to get vaccinated, but 83.2 percent of eligible Canadians had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Sunday, Aug. 22. The unvaccinated are already a relatively small minority and their numbers will continue to dwindle as restrictions become tighter.

As for players and tier-one personnel, my suspicion is that the CFL feared some marquee names would choose not to report to training camp if a vaccine requirement was in place. Installing tougher guidelines for unvaccinated players after training camp has applied pressure get vaccinated, especially with the risk of players losing a paycheque in the event that a game is cancelled.

The league now has two different sets of health and safety protocols for those who are vaccinated versus those who aren’t, including the option to go unmasked outdoors, use the steam room, go to restaurants, play golf, socialize with teammates in the hotel, and more.

One could still argue the league should have started the season with a vaccine requirement for all players and staff, but they’re slowly making progress.

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When he played with Argos, I noticed (Canadian quarterback) Michael O’Connor had a decent arm but his leg speed was lacking for all aspects of his job.

Is it likely that Calgary is on the cusp of beatdown after beatdown now that the ponderous O’Connor is forced into action? Mitchell hardly ever ran but he was very nimble at evading oncoming rushes. How will O’Connor cope with the onslaught of blitzes coming his way?

-Glen Jones

Thanks for the question, Glen. I wish I’d gotten to your question last week before the Stampeders started rookie Jake Maier over O’Connor.

I think O’Connor moves well enough to elude pressure in the pocket at the professional level. Is he ever going to be a dual-threat quarterback? No, but he doesn’t need to be.

The native of Orleans, Ont. has the frame of a prototypical pocket passer at six-foot-five and 228 pounds. He can stand in the pocket, move a little to buy time, and deliver the ball. Bo Levi Mitchell recently said O’Connor reminds him of Ricky Ray, who was never a mobile passer despite achieving remarkable success.

I was disappointed that O’Connor didn’t get the opportunity to start in Week 3, but I believe Dave Dickenson went with the player who he felt gave him the best chance to win (which they did). Dickenson told the media back in July that he doesn’t believe there’s a stigma surrounding Canadian quarterbacks and that he would also pick the best quarterback regardless of nationality.

Good for Dickenson and Maier for getting their first win of the season under trying circumstances. I’m sure we’ll still see O’Connor get his opportunity at some point in the future.

John Hodge is a CFL insider and draft analyst who has been covering the league since 2014.