Pay cuts causing friction

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

In the midst of a productive off-season highlighted by several big signings and a fruitful draft, the Sun has learned there is growing dissent amongst several core players of the Calgary Stampeders.

And that has team president Ted Hellard fuming.

Some players are upset over word a handful of key veterans have been asked to take sizeable pay cuts.

Hellard is furious because he says not only is the club doing what's best for the players but the talk amongst players has been blown way out of proportion.

"It's making it sound like it's a whole bunch of players -- it's two guys," said Hellard, in charge of ensuring his club complies with the new $4.05-million salary cap he helped design. "I've heard this from the union, too. I don't know what they want us to do -- cut them and give them no chance to restructure? If the players don't perceive it as treating them with respect and trying to do something that benefits them, then maybe in the future we'll just cut anyone who doesn't fit instead of having to take criticism like this. It's too bad they're not looking at it with a realistic point of view."

One of the players who agreed to take a sizeable hit said he wasn't happy about it but pointed out it's a reality in a league where contracts aren't guaranteed.

"We agreed to a salary management system so we can't complain," said the player, who didn't want to discuss the issue and wished to remain anonymous.

Several of his teammates weren't so diplomatic.

"They have a built-in excuse with the salary cap that they can take to every veteran," said one angry player.

"In this league ... your contract isn't worth the paper it's printed on. It's such a double-edged sword for us -- they want you to help sell tickets by being part of the community and once you do and get a house and maybe a job during the off-season, you're screwed."

Hellard vehemently denied the accusation.

"That has absolutely no impact whatsoever on any decisions we make," he said.

"Our model is simple -- if we can't fit you into our cap we approach you early and give you a structure so you can. That way all decisions in camp are football ones, not financial ones."

Team captain Jay McNeil said he's heard the rumblings from disgruntled teammates and understands their frustration.

"It sucks that it has to happen -- I wouldn't like it either -- but it's also a reality of the league now," he said.

"It's easy for me to say as someone who wasn't asked to take a cut but at least they were given a choice. A lot of people don't get that in the real world."

CFLPA president Stu Laird said he couldn't comment on whether he's fielded grievances from Calgary players but did send a letter out to every team reminding them the union needs to be notified if more than one player is approached for a pay cut.

While no one wants to hear of a colleague's work undermined by a pay cut, the reality is it doesn't matter what league you're in -- if an employer can find someone younger and cheaper, your days are numbered.

"Tell those guys instead of talking to you they can talk to me -- my door is always open," said Hellard, clearly perturbed.

Some have already been forced to walk through it and, while they have to lump it, it's unrealistic to expect them or their teammates to like it.


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