CFL Pass

CFL staff scrambling for workarounds in wake of COVID-19 pandemic

Conjure up an image of a scrambling quarterback and you will have a sense of what’s happening with the Canadian Football League’s head office staff.

They are game-planning on the fly for two April drafts adversely affected by the cancellation of player combines, for mid-May training camps and a season that could be delayed, shortened or cancelled entirely, depending upon the status of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re looking at everything and literally every day something changes,” said Greg Dick, the CFL’s chief financial officer and head of football operations. “We’re literally assessing it on a daily basis.”

When the league rightly cancelled all combines in advance of the April 16 global player draft and April 30 national draft, it created a string of logistical problems now being solved by a fluid set of workarounds.

For instance, each CFL team would normally have scheduled separate interviews with players in person in Toronto at the main combine later this month, but that can’t happen. So football ops staff members are working on a solution.

“Right now we are setting up group interviews for CFL clubs with each global player that was invited to the global combine,” said Dick. “Skype, video conference, Facetime, whatever it is. The teams chose to do that in a group. They will be setting up interviews individually with the national players.”

Thirty-nine global players earned invitations to the main combine through their performances at combines in Finland, Sweden, France, England, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Japan and Brazil. The Mexican combine fell victim to COVID-19 but the Liga de Futbol Americano Profesional has provided the CFL with a list of 20 potential draftees, as well as LFA video of them in action.

CFL football operations staff also opened up a dialogue with the head of the university coaches association in Mexico to secure earlier video and combine results of those same players.

Interviewing those players is just one step in the evaluation process prior to the scheduled five-round global draft. CFL teams that would have seen prospective draftees complete the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical and broad jumps and shuttle courses, need more information.

Football ops people got on it. Greg Quick, director of global scouting, assembled a global player ranking.

“Some teams are using it,” said Dick. “They’ve also got scouting reports. They’ve got the combine testing results from our global combines, the video from that global combine. Any game footage from their leagues from last season and prior season we’ve got in a database for all the clubs to evaluate the global players.”

CFL teams are more familiar with players that will be selected in the national draft.

“Those guys have played in Canada or the U.S. They’ve got lots of film. If they were at an East-West Bowl, they’ve already done combine testing. There’s a lot more information on them than the global guys, and (GMs) know the level of competition, versus comparing a Japanese player to a German player to a French player to a Brazilian player.

“Every day I talk to GMs, they tell me it’s hard for them to evaluate the global players because they’re only looking at video.”

The health of those players is another important issue, and it would have been determined by physical exams at the combine.

“We do surveys with them and national players, too, to list their injuries,” said Dick. “We talked about that with the GMs. We’re deciding if we require them to get a medical done. But for now it’s self-reporting on injuries.”

That, as with everything now, can change in a heartbeat. The clock is ticking on training camps, on the season itself, and the league is developing contingencies. For now, there is no official drop-dead date, the point at which the league would have to cancel training camps and therefore the season.

“We’re in the middle of coming up with all sorts of scenarios,” said Dick. “Full season, shortened season, no season. A guy who works on my team, Trevor Hardy, is looking at all the different scheduling options. We are in full force contingency planning now.”

Similarly, there is no carved-in-stone minimum number of games for a shortened season, if that has to be the case, though it’s hard to imagine scheduling less than 10 games per team.

“It’s so up in the air,” said Dick. “Obviously the clubs want 18 games to get the revenue. We want that because then TSN has 81 games to broadcast and we don’t have a reduction in broadcast revenue. So we’re looking literally at all options.”


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