Nine-game gamble

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

To nine-game or not to nine-game.

That is the question.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers general manager Brendan Taman says one of the biggest issues facing CFL teams in the new salary cap era is what to do with players who are expected to miss between four and six weeks due to injury.

If such players are placed on the nine-game injured list, their salary doesn't count towards the team's season expenditure total, which must be below $4.05 million at the end of the year.

Then again, the player must sit out for nine weeks -- even if he gets healthy before then.

Taman said the nine-game issue was the first thing that popped into his mind when centre Obby Khan contracted a viral infection in training camp and receiver Jamie Stoddard partially tore his MCL two weeks ago.

"If you hear a four-to-six-week injury, the challenge with those injuries are: Can we afford to eat a guy for four to six weeks, or do we have to write him off for nine and hope he's closer to nine than he's closer to four?" said Taman, noting many teams would like to have the long-term injury time reduced to six weeks. "So that's been a little bit of strategic manoeuvring that usually was not an issue in the past. But now it is."

Khan was not put on the nine-game injured list but has yet to play this season, so in hindsight that would have been a smart move for Taman to make. Stoddard is expected to miss only a month of action, so putting him on the long-term list wasn't considered.

Therefore, both Khan and Stoddard have received -- and will continue to receive -- their full salary while on the one-game injured list, which will count towards the team's cap total.

And they're not the only ones.

The Bombers budgeted for two injured players per week in addition to the four-man reserve list and the seven-member practice roster. Unfortunately for them, they have had more players icing wounds than planned.

Taman has said all along that injuries will be the wildcard in whether or not a team manages to stay under the cap, but Winnipeg's situation isn't causing the bean counters on Maroons Road to press the panic button.

"We're a little high on our injuries, because we budgeted two injuries per week on the waived/injured list plus our four-man reserve, which we've used for injuries as well," Taman said. "We've been averaging probably three or four a week instead of two, so we're a little bit high in that area."

The good news for the Bombers -- and their accountants -- is four of the nine players currently on the injured list are set to return for Friday's home game against Toronto.

That, however, will cause a domino effect throughout the rest of the roster: injured players return; their replacements get bumped back to the practice roster; current practice roster players get cut.

"We'll have some serious decisions to make," Taman said.

LATE HITS: Details for the Milt Stegall tribute prior to Friday's game have been announced. The video of every Stegall touchdown will begin airing at 6:15 p.m. on the Jumbotron, and former CFL touchdown record holders George Reed and Mike Pringle will be on the field for a pre-game presentation to Stegall at 7 p.m. ... Former Bomber Doug Hocking has been promoted to head coach of the defending Canadian Junior Football League champion Vancouver Island Raiders. Hocking joined the team last season as its defensive line coach.


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