Injuries painful to GMs

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

The season hasn't even started yet, and Brendan Taman is already over budget.

That's not a good thing in the new CFL.

The eight-team loop has punting and special teams rule changes this season, but the new law that will have the most impact will occur in the accountant's office thanks to the salary management system.

Taman, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers GM, and the rest of his management brethren must now keep one eye on the field and one eye on the books. Each team has $4.05 million to spend this season, and breaching that ceiling will result in fines or forfeiture of draft picks.

Salaries, plane tickets for wives, game tickets, hotel bills, shoes, gloves, socks, performance bonuses and public appearance payments will all count against the cap.

"We have started an audit already, and all teams are complying with that audit," commissioner Mark Cohon said yesterday. "This is of the utmost importance in my role as commissioner. It is critical."

Taman believes all teams are ready to play along.

"You can tell in the moves that nobody's going nutso on faking injuries and all that stuff," Taman said. "You can tell already that people are buying into it."

The biggest concern for the league's GMs is injuries. The more injured players a team has, the more salary it has to pay because it has to keep more bodies around to fill out the game roster.

Most teams currently have between one and four injured players. In years past, they would hide at least a dozen "injured" players.

Taman has eight players in sick bay to start the season, which is why he's already spent more than planned.

"We budgeted for two waived-injured guys a week," he said. "But right now we're at eight, so that's not going over well with some people I work with.

"So it's a challenge, there's no doubt about it. And it's very stressful."

Teams created extra cap space last November when they handed out bonuses to dozens of players before the SMS kicked in on Nov. 20. Since that bonus money went on the 2006 books, several star players this season are technically playing for $40,000 or $50,000 after receiving $100,000 bonuses last fall.

That loophole won't be available next winter, so the true value of each player in the new SMS landscape will be known then.

NEW RULES: The two rules changes that are expected to have the most impact on the field this season involve punting and special teams blocking.

Punters are no longer allowed to boot the ball out of bounds between the 20-yard lines in the air. The receiving team can either take the ball where it went out of bounds or force the offending team to punt again after a 10-yard penalty.

"It can be nerve-wracking sometimes, knowing that if you get a hold of one and you are directional kicking, you'll probably kick it out of bounds," Bombers punter Pat Fleming said.

"So you have to really focus on your accuracy. Sometimes you have to take off power to focus on your accuracy, which can be frustrating."

Meanwhile, the league changed the illegal block rule back to the way it was in 2005. Players on return teams can once again make contact on 70% of an opponent's body, unlike last season when 50% was off limits.

The one-year rule change resulted in only three return touchdowns in 2006.


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