CFL Pass

In time, Canadian Football League will look at XFL innovations

The XFL, which borrowed from the Canadian Football League’s rulebook, might also have something to give its northern neighbour.

Two XFL elements in particular — kickoff alignments and convert options — caught the eye of the CFL’s innovation committee, the 10-member unit tasked by Commissioner Randy Ambrosie with delivering out-of-the-box ideas to improve the three-down game.

The committee is on pause because the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the league to focus solely on crisis management, but there will come a time when the CFL’s innovative minds get back to the business of thinking big picture.

“There is nothing on the table, but we will talk about some of the innovative stuff the XFL did, just to bat it around,” said Greg Dick, the CFL’s head of football operations and a member of the innovation committee. “Nothing would be implemented for the season, regardless. It would be the following year. But they did do some things that were interesting from an innovation standpoint.”

The XFL placed its kickoff and cover teams just five yards apart on the receiving team’s 35- and 30-yard lines, to limit injuries sustained during long, high-speed runs. The kicker lined up on his own 45, and no player on the kick or cover team could move until the ball was fielded.

The XFL didn’t have a point-after kick. Instead, the scoring team scrimmaged from either the two-, five- or 10-yard line and was awarded one, two or three points for getting into the end zone.

“I like the convert option,” said Dick. “Maybe not exactly how they did it, but I liked the little wrinkle. For our game, with the 20-yard end zone, you wouldn’t do them at the same yard lines, I don’t think. You would have to modify a little bit.”


If the pandemic delays the start of the CFL season, not to mention the end of the National Hockey League and National Basketball League schedules, TSN will be digging deeper into its mass of archival footage.

“Our plan is to basically theme some nights; a hockey night, a soccer night, a CFL night,” said TSN vice-president Paul Graham. “We’d also look at special nights; (like) top receiver night in the CFL.”

He said Friday would be the most likely night for a CFL programming theme. And they would also attempt to be timely.

“If you’re expecting to see March Madness for example, we’re going to show you some old March Madness. If you’re expecting to see the Masters, then we’re going to show you some previous Masters coverage. Things you would expect to see at certain times of the year, we will try to match up, because we do have rights to much of that programming.”


Ambrosie has spent much of his time in self-isolation talking to the league’s various stakeholders, including the CFL Players Association, who have been represented by newly elected president Solomon Elimimian and executive-director Brian Ramsay.

“We’re having great conversations with the P.A. I’m really very, very excited about the tone and the thoughtfulness of our conversations with Solomon and Brian,” Ambrosie said earlier this week. “There is a real feeling that we are together in this and it’s the same when we’re talking to our presidents. And I was on a call with our governors; it’s the same fundamental tone; where do we go from here? Let’s be good planners. Let’s get ahead of the planning curve so if and when this crisis passes we can get on with the business of entertaining millions of Canadian and global football fans.”

This and that: The CFL’s rules committee will meet by teleconference next week. During a live online Q and A session with fans on Friday, Ambrosie said the committee will be discussing special teams safety protocols, among other items. … The Calgary Stampeders will be the first CFL team to roll out a new version of the New Era jerseys, ostensibly this season, according to Ambrosie. The remaining eight teams would do the same in 2021. … Ambrosie also said the league is committed to an April 30 national draft, but things can change, obviously. The league pushed back its global draft from April 16 to an as-yet-unspecified date. … TSN’s Graham said they haven’t yet replaced Mike Benevides on the CFL panel, which now consists of host Rod Smith, Milt Stegall, Matt Dunigan, Henry Burris and Davis Sanchez. Benevides made a handful of appearances last year, but is now the defensive co-ordinator for the Ottawa Redblacks. … Ambrosie was asked about a CFL video game, and said it is very much a work in progress. He said he has spoken to the CFL’s global partners about a console game that would allow Canadian teams to play against teams from around the world.


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