CFL one week, NFL the next

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:35 AM ET

There is no obvious villain in the strange football saga of David Allen, although there probably should be.

No matter how the story is told, the Canadian Football League somehow is made to look small and, frankly, there are already enough reasons to think of it that way.

Last Sunday, David Allen -- no relation to Damon Allen -- ran the ball for Calgary, caught passes, ran back kicks and contributed to the most important, most impressive Stampeders win in years.

This Sunday, when the Stampeders host a playoff game that no one thought possible, Allen will again be returning kicks.

Just not in Calgary.

The Stampeders are going to the playoffs but he isn't.

He has gone to St. Louis, where he will return kicks and punts for the Rams in Seattle on Sunday.

"It's a unique situation," said Jim Barker, the Stampeders general manager, not sure whether to explain or apologize.

OTHER WAY AROUND

This kind of thing usually happens the other way around in the CFL. A player arrives just in time for a playoff game. How many times have we seen that?

But when was the last time somebody played one week in the CFL, the next in the NFL?

"We kind of knew this might happen," Barker said. "We hoped it wouldn't. We took a gamble on him and I think it was worth it. I don't think this is a big issue. I don't think this will affect us on Sunday."

Last month, the Stampeders needed a new return man and were looking for some depth at running back and thought they had found all of it in Allen. With a major catch, of course.

"Right from the beginning, they told us there were five or six NFL teams that had him on their radar," Barker said.

And then the verbal negotiations began with Calgary.

Barker approached his coaching staff with a simple question: "Can we do this?" Meaning, would they be willing to bring in a player to a team in the middle of a playoff race who may be gone at the whim of another team in another league?

There was no language in the contract indicating the Stampeders would have to let Allen go. It all came from a handshake agreement.

"They were honest with us. We were honest with them," Barker said. "This wasn't my decision, this was an organizational decision.

"Our staff said, go ahead and get the best guy possible and we did that. And we told Allen and his agent that if an NFL teams calls and wants you, we will cut you immediately."

The Rams called. The Stampeders cut.

In his short time with the Stamps, Allen ran back a kickoff for 86 yards, a punt for 36 yards, scored one running touchdown and one receiving touchdown and combined for 522 combined yards in little more than a month. Amortize those numbers over an entire season and they are Bashir Levingston-like.

"You don't realize how tough it is to bring in a football player late in the season," Barker said. "It's not like we're throwing big money around here."

Allen earned something like $3,000 a game in Calgary. On Sunday, he will earn more than $25,000 US for his appearance in Seattle.

But there was more to this than even short-term numbers. Allen is six games away from qualifying for an NFL pension. After this weekend, he will be one game closer. Should he finish the season in St. Louis, he will be guaranteed $600 a month at the age of 55. Should he play another NFL season, that number will raise to $800.

MIGHT HAVE MISSED OUT

The weird part is, had he stayed for just one more week in Calgary, he might have missed out on on all of that. You see, there is a rule in the NFL that attempts to control this kind of player movement. Allen was free to join the Rams this week, but had he remained in Calgary, and lost this coming Sunday, he would have been ineligible to play the remainder of the NFL season.

Turns out, no player on a CFL roster on the concluding week of that team's season can move to the NFL in that very same season. Typically, there is protection for the NFL players, just not much for CFL teams.

"Would we do it again?" asked Jim Barker, the former Argos coach. "We probably would. It's our job to bring in the best players. You never know how long they are going to be here."


Videos

Photos