New look loop

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:57 AM ET

The CFL finally has a salary cap, instant replay and bigger rosters.

Welcome to the 21st century, CFL!

There are several new features that the eight-team loop implemented during the off-season. Some of them will be noticeable on the field, while others will not.

Regardless, here's a quick rundown of what you should know:

SALARY CAP

Known at CFL headquarters as the "salary management system," this plan will get a test drive this season before going into full effect in 2007.

Each team gets to spend a certain amount on salaries, and that includes performance and signing bonuses.

The cap this year will be $3.8 million, but it will be reviewed annually. That's because the players, under the new agreement reached earlier this month, are entitled to no less than 56% of defined team revenues on a league-wide basis.

Each team will be required to certify its payroll, and there will be compliance officers in place to police the cap.

Beginning next year, teams going over the cap will have to pay a luxury tax or will lose draft picks.

INSTANT REPLAY

The board also approved the implementation of instant replay for the 2006 season, so if you see a coach throw a yellow flag on the field, don't be alarmed.

The system allows for a team to challenge two officiating decisions per game, but not during the last three minutes of the second half or overtime.

The first challenge is a freebie, meaning a team won't forfeit a timeout if it loses the appeal. That also means a team can still use its first challenge even if it has burned both its first- and second-half timeouts.

The second challenge is a different story, however, as a team will lose a timeout if it loses the appeal. That also means a team must have a timeout remaining to use its second challenge.

In addition, if a team has used its first-half timeout and its second challenge occurs in the first half and is unsuccessful, it will forfeit its second-half timeout.

Replay officials in the press box will send a signal to the referee if they think a call should be challenged in the last three minutes of the second half or overtime.

PLAYS THAT CAN BE REVIEWED INCLUDE:

- possession rulings in the end zone;

- forward progress with respect to first down or goal-line;

- passing plays -- complete or incomplete;

- ball carriers ruled down by contact;

- fumbles which occur prior to down by contact.

PLAYS THAT CANNOT BE REVIEWED INCLUDE:

- proper down;

- status of the clock;

- penalty calls and their administration;

- forward progress not relating to a first down or goal-line;

- force-outs on pass plays near a sideline;

- recovery of loose ball in the field of play;

- field goals.

ROSTERS

CFL teams can now dress 42 players instead of 40, which includes the addition of both a non-import and an import.

In addition, each team will have a four-man "reserve roster" for each game, meaning those players will get paid their full salary but cannot be claimed by another team.

The reserve roster will usually consist of both healthy scratches and injured players.

The practice roster has been renamed the "development roster," and it has increased from six to seven players.

There are reserved spots for one non-import in his draft year and one non-import among those seven.

The rest of the players will be put on either the one-game waived/injured list, or the four- or nine-game injured list, where they also will receive their full salary.

RULES

Perhaps the most influential rule change this year could be the new no-yards penalty.

Previously, a player would get a 15-yard penalty if the receiver caught the ball while the offender was within five yards of the ball.

This year, if a player does not make a concerted effort to stay at least five yards from a returner -- even if the ball is bouncing -- his team will be penalized 15 yards.


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