Top 10 Tuesday: Extending The Pre-Season And Are The Riders Playing Scared?

Here are my scattered thoughts from the week that was in the world of sports in no particular order.

10 – The ugly side of football has definitely reared its’ head in the early stages of the CFL season. Serious injuries are up across the board especially with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. With that being said the game is a performance based business and one of the all-time good guys was let go by the Green and White yesterday. Chris Milo who was 1-for-2 in the field goal department in week one was cast away by the Riders yesterday after Paul McCallum came in and went 4-for-4 in his season debut on Sunday. It’s a cruel business sometimes but Milo was up against the wall after only 72% field goal proficiency last season.

9 – When it comes to the injuries in the CFL there was an interesting point that I posed to a pair of former players last week. Do they feel that the pre-season should be extended to help prevent early season injuries? The reasoning behind my query was simple, with the number of strains, and pains in the opening weeks of the season would it not be better to ease into full 60-minute game mode as opposed to having to find that gear after generally three quarters of playing time and a two week training camp. If you think about it the pre-season is primarily an evaluation tool as opposed to a preparation tool in the CFL. Unfortunately, the business of the sport dictates that it won’t work as fans don’t come out to see pre-season games and in a league reliant, for the most part, on attendance that’s a red flag. Not to mention the fact that some feel the season is too long already. So, while the athletes would like the extended time to get their body’s right the money involved won’t work!

8 – More on injuries and I have no idea how the CFL can classify last week’s hit on Blue Bomber Quarterback Drew Willy OK. Fortunately for the Grey Cup hosts Willy doesn’t appear as though he will miss any playing time aside from the two plus quarters he missed against Hamilton last week. If you haven’t seen the hit, while Willy was in the grasp of one defender a second Hamilton lineman (Adrian Tracy) came in helmet to helmet and knocked Willy out of the game. I understand that Willy was no longer upright and falling down and that Tracy had committed to a hit. However, I don’t get why it was Ok for him to lead with his helmet. That baffles me!

7 – Back to the Riders and a number of comments on social media from the lead up to the Riders and Argos suggested that the Riders are playing scared in the player personnel department. One suggestion was that the Riders are not investing in developing players instead they are hoping that aging veterans can do the job (i.e. Paul McCallum, Jamal Richardson). It was further suggested that by grasping at these straws the Riders are deathly afraid of having any sort of rebuild that would look like the early 2000’s of Roy Shivers and Danny Barret. The commenter went further to say that the Riders could not afford any type of poor on-field performance as fans would stay away and merchandise sales would suffer. My take is simple: First in a nine team league you should never have to go into a full blown rebuild mode. Secondly, you have to get the best talent available and if that is at the expense of a young player that isn’t up to speed mentally it is what it is. Lastly, this is a win now business for football operations and at the end of the season whoever hoists the Grey Cup won’t be asked their age!

6 – More on the Roughriders and is the team as popular as we think that they are? One of the stars of week two was Rakeem Cato, the rookie pivot engineered a Montreal win over Calgary and looked good in doing it. During the contest it was revealed that Cato was on the Riders negotiation list but after declining to attend the Rider mini-camp he was air quotes here, “released from the list,” allowing Montreal to swoop in and pick him up. There are two factors at work here. One he’s no dummy and probably could see the writing on the wall as far as having a slim shot to stick on the roster with Darian Durant, Kevin Glenn and Tinto Sunseri (seemingly) ahead of him on the depth chart at that camp in Florida. Secondly, albeit a smaller factor, where do you think the Miami product and Marshall University grad was more familiar with, Montreal or Regina? That being said the entire situation didn’t look real good from a collusion-ist’s perspective.

5 – More from the CFL and alumni from around the league do not like the new rule changes in particular the change to contacting receivers by defensive backs. The new rule says that there can be no contact with a receiver after five yards from the line of scrimmage. The rule designed to help improve scoring has definitely done that. It also has increased the number of flags during the game and created a horrible double standard. For example a pass interference call, which is very subjective not just to the officials on the field but also the replay official in Toronto, can be reviewed. However, during that review illegal contact on a receiver, the penalty that would be called for contacting a receiver down field, cannot be called. So, while the defensive back may be in contact with the receiver which is a penalty it cannot be called on a pass interference challenge meaning that if there is deemed to be no pass interference on the play there is then no penalty either. Clear as mud right?

4 – Further complicating the matter for defensive backs is the waggle and fact that receivers can seemingly go offside at will. There is a slight advantage for the offence.

3 – That all being said I think that the Ottawa REDBLACKS defensive coordinator Mark Nelson deserves a tip of the cap for creativity. On second and long Nelson has his DB’s line up at the first down marker playing a zone defense with only three players on the defensive line. It looked bad but was very effect. It may be the future for non-contact defense in the CFL. Unfortunately, it is also the defense my six-year old son’s flag football team ran.

2 – On a different field congratulations to all organizers of the World Softball Championship in Saskatoon from the last couple of weeks. 50,000 in attendance through the event is an amazing achievement and worthy of a bow. Well done.

1 – Staying with baseball and I will be interested to see how serious the Toronto Blue Jays are at taking a run for the post season. While still in the hunt the team seemingly finds new ways to lose. A starting pitcher and closer are at the top of GM Alex Anthopolis’ wish list. The question is can he come up with them before the team falls out of the race in the weaker A-L East.