AFL contracts remain grey area

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:00 AM ET

There's plenty of grey areas when it comes to the CFL. One in particular is the matter of players under contract to CFL clubs and plying their trade in the Arena Football League. And, like the salary-cap issue, it's another area where the league tends to turn a blind eye.

With the indoor league an easy way to pocket a quick $60,000 US during the winter, the AFL is becoming increasingly attractive to CFLers.

A couple of years ago the Edmonton Eskimos lost receiver Quincy Jackson to Saskatchewan because of an old AFL contract. Following an investigation by the CFL, Jackson was declared a free agent.

He then signed with the Roughriders, which sent Esks' management into spasms.

Currently, the Eskimos have receiver Scott Cloman on the roster, who was under contract to the AFL New York Dragons until recently.

Toronto Argonauts quarterback Michael Bishop is setting records playing for Grand Rapids while under contract to the Argos.

Although neither player will be deemed a free agent like Jackson was, the CFL brass is loath to supply the rationale for its thinking.

CFL vice-president Ed Chalupka declined comment on the Jackson ruling and would not discuss Cloman or Bishop yesterday, as did CFL manager of football operations Kevin McDonald.

"These are two different situations," said Chalupka through Alexis Redmond, the league's marketing director. "The inner workings of the contracts are confidential."

Defensive linemen Kelvin Kinney and Albert Reese are playing in the AFL. Both, however, asked for and were granted their release from the Esks. On a gentleman's agreement, each has returned to the Eskimos in the past. Ideally, that's how the league would like to see all teams handle the traffic between the two leagues.

"Our preference is that teams release players and we try to keep on top of the release," explained McDonald. "We try to get players coming up here from Arena to league teams to sign an affidavit swearing they will remain under our contracts and won't return to the AFL contract.

"That being said, it doesn't always happen and players do fall through the cracks. As the arena league gets a little more popular there is more flow back and forth. It's something we've been exploring a lot more this off-season and we've spent some time looking at a relationship with (the AFL)."

Players signing AFL contracts do so for one, two or three years. Cloman's two-year deal with the Dragons began to 'toll' when the 29-year-old moved on to the Rhein Fire following the 2001 AFL season. He still had a year remaining on the pact when he re-joined the Dragons in November, but his release by New York last month terminated that contract.

While the CFL is attempting to maintain the integrity of its contracts, the AFL views things differently.

"It's certainly our position that we don't want to stop any guy from playing where he wants to play," said AFL VP of player personnel Kevin Bornemeier.

"We're not trying to hold guys back from competing because most of these players have a pretty short career."


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