While the players are busy warming up before each CFL contest, the respective head coaches are plotting a little intrigue with whatever head official might be blowing the whistle for that match.
"They ask us who are the defensive captains, the offensive captains, special teams captains, do we have any trick plays, who's your field goal kicker and who are the ineligibles on punt team," Winnipeg head coach Doug Berry revealed before the Blue Bombers last played the Montreal Alouettes.
"He'll say, 'Do you have any concerns?' And I'll just say, 'I want to remind you that the last time we played Montreal, we had three (roughing-the-passer calls),' and I'll say, 'rightfully so but since then, we've gotten it under control as evidenced by the fact we've only been caught once since then.'"
And that, lest you missed it, was a subtle way of suggesting that the officials should not be too flag-happy when Bomber defenders were chasing down Montreal QBs.
Winnipeg was called for only one roughing-the-passer infraction in the match. However, Montreal head coach Don Matthews may have gotten into the ref's ears better as the Bombers were nailed 18 penalties for 162 yards while the Als had only 10 for 84.
Head coaches, however, must word their concerns carefully, such as Berry did before the Bombers played the Argonauts in Toronto.
"I reminded them the last time we played Toronto, we had a number of sacks and thought there was some difficulty in the protection schemes that they had," said Berry, who then added with a coy smile: "I don't think I used the word, 'holding.'
"Everyone does this, it's just a normal way of doing business. But you never come right out and indict another team. You're supposed to do that by complaining to the league's head official (George Black), like on a Monday if you're going to play them on a Saturday or a Sunday. You tell them way early in the week, then you alert the other team that you'd better correct this stuff because it's a problem. I mean, if there were a bunch of late hits, I would be calling into the league saying, 'You'd better make sure our quarterback's protected this week.'"
But those meetings can sometimes completely throw off an opposing coach. Former CFL referee Neil Payne revealed in his book, Crimes and Punishment, how Matthews would hold court before a game when playing against head coach Cal Murphy and tell the referee long jokes. By the time the ref got to a waiting Murphy, he would be so livid that Matthews had gotten into ref's head that he would forget what he wanted to say.
The officials also want to be alerted to trick plays so they will not be caught by surprise and throw an unnecessary flag.
"Sometimes, they might even say, 'Can you alert the ref when you call it? Have your quarterback do it?'" Berry said incredulously. "Well, we're not going to alert you. 'Hey, excuse me ref, this is the one, OK?'"
Then, he laughed heartily.