Two hits not in same league: CFL

Argos quarterback Cleo Lemon runs the ball as Bombers linebacker Joe Lobendahn closes in for a big...

Argos quarterback Cleo Lemon runs the ball as Bombers linebacker Joe Lobendahn closes in for a big hit that knocked Lemon out of the game. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters file photo)

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:05 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Even though the CFL is investigating two head shots from Saturday’s contest between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Toronto Argonauts, Tom Higgins said they’re not in the same league.

As Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice asserted on Sunday, the CFL’s director of officiating agreed Ejiro Kuale’s hit on vulnerable Winnipeg quarterback Buck Pierce was not in the same ball park as Joe Lobendahn’s helmet-to-helmet hit on Toronto pivot Cleo Lemon.

“Absolutely,” Higgins said. “It was passer versus person running with the ball or running back. When you are a passer you are vulnerable.”

Kuale, who launched himself at Pierce and appeared to hit him in the face mask with the crown of his helmet after the QB had thrown a pass, was ejected from the game, which Winnipeg won 33-24.

“Should somebody hit you late, it’s rough play. That’s a penalty,” Higgins said. “If they hit you late and they launch themself and it’s high and possibly helmet to helmet, that’s excessive rough play, and the referee who’s responsible for protecting the quarterback has the right to make that call.

“I was pleased with the call after talking to the referee (Glen Johnson). I thought he made a very tough call, but a right call. … He said it was late, high and to the head.”

Higgins said the only thing Johnson did wrong was tell Argos head coach Jim Barker he was kicking Kuale out of the game because he had intended to injure Pierce.

“I don’t believe anybody can gauge intent, but it was the act that was ruled on, and I believe we had a correct ruling,” Higgins said.

Kuale told reporters in Toronto on Monday he felt he led with his shoulder and not his helmet, and he plans to appeal if he gets fined.

Lobendahn will have to defend himself to the league to avoid being fined for his hit on Lemon, which knocked the quarterback out of the game. The CFL is trying to eliminate helmet-to-helmet hits and has fined two players in the last two weeks for such collisions.

The fact Lemon started to go to the ground just as Lobendahn zeroed in on him for the hit could potentially save him from getting fined.

“Never, ever, would we disqualify a tackler on a ball carrier,” Higgins said, although he added there could be exceptions if something excessive happened after the tackle.

Pierce didn’t have much more to add to the story on Monday, saying he’s feeling fine and ready to take on the winless B.C. Lions on Thursday night.

“It was late, the referee thought it was late, on the film it was late, and I’m glad they addressed it,” Pierce said. “Now we can move on.”

If Kuale and/or Lobendahn are to be fined for their hits, an announcement would likely come on Wednesday.

What is rough play?

By the CFL rule book

A player shall be penalized and subject to disqualification for any act of rough play against an opponent, including but not limited to:

(a) striking an opponent with the fist, hand, knee or elbow in an excessively rough manner,

(b) kicking an opponent or,

(c) any other act of excessive roughness considered by the referee to warrant disqualification.


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