Open season on QBs

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:42 AM ET

Want someone to blame for the laughable slap on the wrist handed to Edmonton Eskimos headhunter Agustin Barrenechea?

The natural reflex is to point the finger at the CFL. It was the league, after all, that fined Barrenechea a mere $1,000 yesterday for trying to decapitate Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Kevin Glenn last Friday.

The proper penalty -- one that actually sends a message -- would have been a fine five times that, or a one-game suspension, minimum, worth several grand out of the guy's pocket.

At the very least, Barrenechea should have been forced to sit out Saturday's rematch between the two teams, in Edmonton.

His mere presence in the lineup will not only be aggravating to the Bombers, increasing the potential for further ugliness (hello, Todd Bertuzzi), it'll also be a giant thumbing-of-the-nose to the league office.

So go ahead, lambaste the people who made the decision, led by commissioner Mark Cohon, all you want.

But there's a quiet culprit here, one that's equally to blame: the players.

I'm told the league would have loved to come down harder on Barrenechea.

But their hands were tied because the players don't want to change the archaic appeal process, a process that almost surely would have resulted in any suspension being lifted.

Remember A.J. Gass, the Eskimos linebacker who threw a player's helmet down the field in a game last year?

Originally suspended for a game, Gass appealed, and an arbitrator overturned it.

As it stands now, league punishments are based on precedents. And the league can't change the system unless the players union agrees.

So far, they haven't.

So when league officials huddled yesterday to consider the punishment to Barrenechea, their hands were tied, and they knew it.

TAKEN ABACK

"I was watching the game and I was taken aback by that hit, like I'm sure every other fan was," CFL chief operating officer Michael Copeland, part of the league's disciplinary committee, told the Sun last night.

"It was a very severe hit. Anytime there's something that puts a player's safety in danger, we take it very seriously, especially a player the stature and character of Glenn."

In the CFL, taking it seriously means slapping the offender with a token fine.

By comparison, the NFL yesterday handed out a one-game suspension and $50,000 fine to New York Jets safety Eric Smith for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Arizona receiver Anquan Boldin on Sunday.

Those penalties combine to take a good chunk of Smith's salary -- around 16%, if he makes $500,000.

Barrenechea's fine might work out to 2% of his pay.

Which league takes the safety of its players more seriously?

Bomber D-lineman Doug Brown, a players union rep, is one of those who doesn't want things to change.

That kind of thinking almost cost him his quarterback.

That Glenn didn't suffer a serious injury is pure luck. Barrenechea's hit could easily have resulted in a serious concussion, if not worse.

STEP RIGHT UP

And without a precedent that'll make players think twice before leading with their heads, especially with a quarterback in their sights, it's going to happen again.

Basically, it's open season on quarterbacks, in a league that says it wants to protect them.

Step right up and take your shot. For a mere 15 yards and $1,000, you could vastly improve your team's chances of winning a game.

Take out a guy in your division, and, presto -- your playoff chances improve, too.

It's almost like a league-sponsored bounty program.

It's bush.

But it's what the players want.

Maybe it's time for a few more quarterbacks to take their leadership from the huddle into the union, and bring it out of the dark ages.

While they still can.


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