CFL Gets Rid Of Full-Contact Practices During Season, Will Add a Third Bye Week
The CFL and CFLPA yesterday announced an "immediate ban on full-contact, padded practices during the regular season" and an additional bye week for teams, moves aimed to "reduce injuries and boost the league’s quality of play," according to Morgan Campbell of the TORONTO STAR. Teams are "still permitted fully-padded practices during training camp, but must discontinue them when the regular season begins." Toronto Argonauts DB Matt Black said, "The more hits we can (avoid) the better it is for (players’) long-term health, and their longevity outside of football. It’s the cumulative hits. That’s what the science is saying" (TORONTO STAR, 9/14). TSN's Dave Naylor noted teams are currently allowed 17 days of full-contact practices "during the season," in addition to training camp practices. Football at all levels has "reduced and restricted the amount of collision permitted during practices in recent years as research has pointed toward a direct correlation between the number of collisions players experience and long-term brain trauma," but no other league is known to have "eliminated padded full-contact practices" (TSN.ca, 9/13). SPORTSNET.ca's Donnovan Bennett wrote CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie is "listening to the players," something he "vowed to do when he took over as commissioner." He said of making the changes, "The credit for this should go to our friends and partners at the player’s association" (SPORTSNET.ca, 9/13).
REACTIONS FROM PLAYERS, EXECS: Edmonton Eskimos GM Brock Sunderland said player safety is "at the forefront of what we’re trying to do." Sunderland: "The commissioner made a loud statement about how we’re trying to protect all the guys out there on the field. With so many injuries coming to light lately, I think the biggest thing is to protect our players" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 9/14). Hamilton Tiger-Cats C Mike Filer said that the decision "makes a lot of sense to him." Filer: "A lot of it is just unnecessary hitting. If you don’t have to hit and be in that situation, why put your guys in (harm’s way)?" Tiger-Cats WR Brandon Banks said that the league and the CFLPA are making this move for "all the right reasons." Banks: "At the end of the day I think the league is looking out for guys’ bodies and health so it’s going to be a good thing" (TORONTO SUN, 9/14).
GETTING NFL'S ATTENTION? In N.Y., Fran Kilinski writes the CFL's move to improve player safety "may have raised the bar for other competitive football leagues like the NFL to follow suit and protect its players in the near future" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/14). ESPN's Michael Smith said this is "something they have got to consider." Smith: "Moving forward, they’ve got to consider whether they are playing too many games. ... All of that is on the table if you want to preserve the health of the players like you claim you want to do." ESPN's Jemele Hill noted coaches often blame injuries on the fact they "are not able to practice as much, or practice as physically as they once did." Smith: "The way that the NFL used to do things (is) not necessarily the answer either. There’s got to be a happy medium" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/13). YAHOO SPORTS' Shalise Manza Young wrote the "biggest gains" the NFLPA made in the '11 CBA were in "player-safety areas like padded practices." Two-a-days during training camp were "eliminated, and there is also a cap on padded practices in-season (14 total, with 11 allowed in the first 11 weeks of the season)." Young: "While it seems an easy thing to convince owners that fewer padded practices are in the best interest of player safety ... you can bet that if the NFLPA broached it, the league would want something (read: more money from players) in return" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/13).
TOO MUCH AT THIS POINT: ESPN's Mike Golic said going "no hitting at all during the week ... is a step too far at this point." He said, "We have done the right thing in football in limiting repetitive hits, but there is a point of limiting the hits to not doing anything at all. ... What we're trying to do is find a water level, find the line.” ESPN’s Mike Greenberg said, “The impossible challenge of finding the line is you’re shooting at a moving target. No one knows where we're trying to get. We're so far away from having meaningful data on exactly what we should and shouldn't be doing to minimize the risks and exactly what the risks are” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 9/14).