CFL Blitz: American attitude creeping into Canadian game

Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice has decided to go the NHL route this season, using

Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice has decided to go the NHL route this season, using "upper" and "lower" body to describe injuries. (QMI Agency)

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

Seriously, are we headed down this road?

Let's hope not.

There is an unwelcome trend developing these days in the Canadian Football League, the same quirky three-down loop that produces those spine-tingling vignettes about how it's Canada's game, the people's game. They show the players partying with the fans, the prime minister booting the football and a horse in a hotel lobby.

Well, a few Americans are trying to turn the CFL into the NFL when it comes to accessibility and sense of community.

Yes, I'm looking at you Corey Chamblin, Marc Trestman and Paul LaPolice -- in that order. It's a few days after Canada Day, so no better time to nip this in the bud and keep this league uniquely Canadian.

Let's start with Chamblin, the new head coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He's a bright young mind who started out in Winnipeg as a position coach and is now running the league's flagship franchise.

What does he do? He goes and bans fans from watching practice twice a week. Is he serious? In Saskatchewan, of all places?

Turns out he was concerned about all the information that was ending up on message boards. He laughingly claimed other coaches are able to build successful game plans with the information that is spilled on the Web. And here I thought April Fool's Day was in April.

Banning fans from any practice is a slap in the face to the people of that province who have, for the most part, supported the Riders through thick and thin. In Winnipeg, if the tiniest morsel of potentially damning information ends up on one of the two main message boards, it is quickly removed and the person is either publicly scolded or banned from the site altogether. I can't see the situation being any different in Saskatchewan.

So Corey, please let them in.

On to Trestman, the brilliant Alouettes head coach who goes to the Grey Cup about as often as he goes to the grocery store. His latest move, however, gets an F. Trestman decided that his assistant coaches are not allowed to speak to the media.

What, are they going to spill the beans about this week's game plan? Give me a break.

"We're so new as a football team, we're so new as a coaching staff, that I just want to give our coaches time to evolve and assimilate the culture that we want to have here," Trestman told reporters on the weekend. "They're very busy guys, and I don't want to have to monitor every single day everything that's being said when guys are still new to it.

"Will it last the whole season? I don't know. It's a mindful decision, not done to shut them off. It's a mindful decision in the best interests of our football team right now."

It sure worked last weekend, when the Als lost a close one, 38-10 to Calgary. Maybe Trestman should think about having his assistants stay at work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, too. There are many colourful characters who are assistant coaches, like Als defensive co-ordinator Jeff Reinebold, and they are what makes the CFL great.

So Marc, please let them speak.

Finally, let's talk about LaPolice, the Bombers head coach who has decided to go the NHL route this season, using "upper" and "lower" body to describe injuries.

Barf. (I guess that's an upper-body injury, right?)

It's sounds stupid when NHL teams do it, and now the Bombers sound stupid right along with them. Hockey and football players aren't going around trying to re-injure body parts they read about in the paper. They are trying to win games.

Obviously, using "upper" and "lower" doesn't take the Canadian out of the game, but it's the principle of the thing.

This isn't the NFL. It's the CFL. It's fans getting autographs and mingling with the players after practice under the hot summer sun.

It's not big business.

It's our game.

So Corey, Marc and Paul, let's reverse course and keep it that way, OK?

HOW THE WEST WON

The West Division's domination of the East in Week 1 has been the hot topic in CFL discussions over the last few days, but it should come as no surprise, really. The Lions, Eskimos and Stampeders all finished with 11-7 records last season and marched strongly towards the playoffs.

Meanwhile, it was a turtle race to the finish between the Bombers, Alouettes and Tiger-Cats in the East. They treated the division title like a hand grenade.

Henry Burris is on the downside of his career and the defence has a ton of new faces in Hamilton. Ricky Ray is a good quarterback, but the Argos don't have enough around him. The Bombers still have a good defence, but lost a lot of talent in the off-season.

In other words, the West is still the best, and it shows no signs of changing anytime soon.

LATE HITS

No CFL referee takes more criticism than Andre Proulx, but everyone is thinking of him in a positive light this week after he suffered a mild heart attack during Saturday's game in Edmonton between the Eskimos and Argos "¦ The player from the off-season's biggest trade who had the best Week 1 performance wasn't Ricky Ray or Steven Jyles. It was Canadian kicker Grant Shaw, who was 4-for-4 for the Eskimos in their win over the Argos "¦ The coolest Canada Day story was Stampeders defensive co-ordinator Rick Campbell and his wife, Geri, becoming Canadian citizens in the morning and then Campbell's defence shutting down Anthony Calvillo and Co. that night. Fitting, if you ask me.

PENTON'S PREDICTION

Something tells me the B.C. receiving duo of Geroy Simon and Arland Bruce is going to have a memorable outing against the Tiger-Cats Friday night. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if they both topped the century mark. Simon has the weight of a record chase off his mind, Bruce is playing a former team, and the Ticats secondary got lit up by the Saskatchewan Roughriders last week. It's a perfect storm.

BY THE NUMBERS

21 -- Starts in his career that Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce has had to leave due to injury, including Friday night in B.C. when he banged up a knee

56 -- Career starts for Pierce

0 -- Number of season-opening wins for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the last seven years

30 -- Players on Hamilton's 58-man roster who have less than one season of CFL experience

13 -- Tackles by Montreal linebacker Chip Cox in Sunday's season-opening loss to Calgary

2,775 -- Career CFL games for players on B.C.'s roster going into the season

1,402 -- Career CFL games for players on Winnipeg's roster going into the season

TWEET OF THE WEEK

This one is a tweet and a response ...

Brandon London, Montreal receiver (@yourboyBLONDON)

"Back to work today "¦ 0-1 is unALSlike!"

Brandon Collier, Winnipeg defensive tackle (@BCollier56)

"So how 0-2 gone feel?"

THREE STARS

1. Weston Dressler, Saskatchewan -- The tiny but terrific pass catcher out of North Dakota had 13 catches for 180 yards and three touchdowns.

2. Bryant Turner, Winnipeg -- The second-year defensive tackle had three sacks and four tackles in a losing effort against the Lions.

3. Darian Durant, Saskatchewan -- The veteran quarterback quieted doubters -- for the next week, anyway -- with 390 passing yards and four touchdown tosses in the rout over the Ticats.

WEEK AHEAD

Winnipeg at Montreal (-6.5)

Quarterback Buck Pierce is banged up (again), and the Als will be looking to rebound from the embarrassment in Calgary. As Scott Flory told The Gazette, -I'm more concerned with how we respond, to be honest with you." That should serve as a fine warning to the Bombers. Alouettes by 10.

Hamilton at B.C. (-6.5)

This one could get ugly, folks. The Lions scored 33 points against a good defence last week. Geroy Simon doesn't have to worry about the CFL's receiving yards record, and Travis Lulay is just getting warmed up. If the Ticats have any pride, though, their defence will bounce back. Lions by 16.

Calgary (-3.5) at Toronto

The Stamps often have trouble in T.O. but they should have a fairly easy time of it this time around. Calgary did a great job of picking up the blitz in a blowout win over the Alouettes, and the Boatmen showed last week in Edmonton that points are going to be difficult to come by this season. Stampeders by 7.

Edmonton at Saskatchewan (-4)

The Riders should come down to earth a bit, but that will still be enough. Darian Durant looked more relieved than he did happy during last week's romp over the Tiger-Cats, although the Esks have a solid defence and should give him a tougher time. Look for Odell Willis to get after Steven Jyles quite a bit. Roughriders by 5.

 


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