CFL-NFL window situation still not resolved but there are ongoing talks between two leagues
THE BLUE MOUNTAINS, Ont. — There was lots of talk but no resolution with regard to the stalled NFL tryout window at the CFL winter meetings on Wednesday.
League presidents, general managers and coaches were all briefed on the situation, but they are no further ahead today than they have been since the window was negotiated into the Collective Bargaining Agreement between players and owners last May.
The plan, which calls for all CFL players under contract for future seasons to be allowed to work out for NFL teams, is reportedly being held up by the NFL Players Association.
The NFLPA does not want players who work out for NFL teams to be able to return to their CFL contracts if they are not signed, while CFL general managers obviously don’t want to lose players who simply have a tryout and nothing further south of the border.
“It sounds like the NFL and the CFL are still having discussions on it,” Winnipeg Blue Bombers general manager Kyle Walters said. “So, as of now, it’s still operating as normal and if a player is to try out this year they have to be on an expiring contract.
“They did say there’s ongoing talks and hopefully in the next couple weeks there will be some more clarity so that we’ll be able to give players coming up the accurate information.
“As of now, new players coming up have to know that the option window is not available to them. Our league is hoping that will get changed once they can sit down and sort it out with the NFL.”
Because the NFL window was written into the CBA, both players and management were operating on the assumption that it would be in effect this off-season.
However, the NFL did not sign off on it, so players with contracts for next season were not able to work out with NFL teams.
It caused a problem for teams, who told players they would be able to work out when they signed their CFL contracts, and the players themselves.
The most notable example was Calgary defensive back Tre Roberson, who had a year left on his deal with the Stampeders but eventually was released so he could pursue NFL opportunities.
Blue Bombers defensive end Jonathan Kongbo was released from a three-year contract to sign with the San Francisco 49ers. Had the NFL window, as worded in the CBA, been in effect, the Bombers would have retained Kongbo’s CFL rights, but now that is not the case.
The Bombers honoured a handshake agreement with Kongbo, but they, like all other CFL teams, would rather an official policy be in place sooner rather than later.
“That’s something we’ll get figured out,” Bombers president Wade Miller said. “Making change isn’t always as smooth and as quick as you’d like. We want to see our players have that opportunity. It will just take time to work that out between the two leagues. “
THE ‘NATIONALIZED’ PLAN
The CFL management teams were also updated on the plan for “nationalized Americans” who will be included on the CFL rosters in 2020.
Each team is required to have three American players who have either been with the organization for three consecutive years or with multiple teams in the CFL for at least four years.
The teams will still be required to have seven national players (Canadians) on their roster as well.
If a Canadian player gets hurt during a game, teams will be allowed to sub in a nationalized American in his place.
“There’s really nothing that changes with regard to the roster,” Walters said. “There will still be 21 Canadians and 20 Americans, but each team is going to have to have three of these nationalized Americans on their team.
“It was just set up from the Players Association, just trying to make sure that each team was protecting their veteran Americans. It won’t affect the Canadian players at all.”
There is already much speculation that teams will try to manipulate the new rules, faking injuries in order to get more Americans on the field, but Walters said that was addressed on Wednesday.
“That will be on the league to monitor and I assure you, for the integrity of the game, it was stressed by (Commissioner) Randy (Ambrosie) that that won’t be accepted. That sort of behaviour and tactics will not be tolerated.”
MILLER STILL ON HIGH
Miller reported that Bombers Grey Cup merchandise is still moving off the shelves at a high rate as Winnipeg continues to celebrate its first CFL championship since 1990.
It has been a good couple months for Miller, the man who started building the franchise up from a bottom-feeder seven years ago. Everywhere he goes, there are high fives and back slaps from appreciative Winnipeggers.
“What has been unbelievable and overwhelming in the response is that it goes past our traditional Bomber fans,” Miller said. “It’s a championship for the province and the city and it fired everybody up.
“That’s what has been amazing to me, how deep this championship has gone and it’s the Winnipeg Blue Bombers who brought it home for the city and the province.
“You see people who are non-football fans when they’re around the Grey Cup and it’s just got this magic to it.”
Miller was asked if he’s come down from the Grey Cup “high” at all yet.
“No, still living it and it’s great.
“This is why I came back and wanted to be involved in the organization — to win a championship for those players who played here for so many years and the fans. I remember what it feels like to lose a Grey Cup and it’s not a good feeling for the players or the community. To be able to pull it off with all the work by our players and coaches and our entire football operation is just phenomenal.”
CONTINUITY THE KEY
Miller fully believes that continuity has been the key to the Bombers success.
Since he became president and CEO of the Winnipeg Football Club in 2013, the team has gotten better each year and improved its game day experience at IG Field immensely.
Most importantly, Miller has stuck faithfully by head coach Mike O’Shea and Walters and allowed them the time to build something special.
“I believe it’s the reason we’ve been successful,” Miller said. “Obviously the players play to win and do it on the field, but right from when I started I believed in the importance of continuity and building a winning, sustaining, organization. That takes time to do it the right way and you’ve got to be patient. Our patience was rewarded.