Coach Kelly gets a pass

Mike Kelly intended to get Bomber veterans to participate in an off-season workout, which is not...

Mike Kelly intended to get Bomber veterans to participate in an off-season workout, which is not allowed in the CFL. (Sun Media/Jordan Verlage)

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

First, there was the Napkin Incident. Then came Glenn-Gate.

Now we have the Quarterback Caper.

Will Mike Kelly, rookie head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, never stop making off-season headlines?

It would be easy to come down hard on Kelly for his latest faux pas, trying to organize an off-season workout involving his quarterbacks, which contravenes the CFL's agreement with its players union.

Whether it's mandatory or voluntary, teams aren't allowed to put veteran players through any drills before Day 1 of training camp.

But it seems the only mistake Kelly made was being naive enough to talk publicly about his plans to get Stefan LeFors, Ryan Dinwiddie and Bryan Randall onto the field at a Bomber free agent camp in Florida, next month.

This didn't come across as classless, the way Kelly's swipe at Brendan Taman did -- claiming the former GM must have done his scouting reports on napkins -- back in January.

And it certainly isn't as controversial as Kelly's decision to release quarterback Kevin Glenn earlier this month, after failing to get anything for him via the trade route.

Oh, sure, maybe the coach should have known about the no workouts rule. Then again, I'll bet my old Dieter Brock trading card that teams bend the thing all the time.

Whether it's getting a quarterback to throw passes to a couple of new receivers, or having a veteran receiver run a few drills with a first-year pivot, it happens. And it's always done quietly.

And why shouldn't it?

If it's voluntary and done on a small scale, there's nothing wrong with veteran players being allowed to meet new players and learn a new system well before the start of camp.

LeFors, Dinwiddie and Randall had agreed to it, by all reports, Dinwiddie telling Canadian Press he wasn't even aware of what he believes is an ill-advised rule.

The purpose of the rule is to prevent players from being forced to take part in off-season practices or mini-camps, which happen in the NFL all bloody winter, it seems.

Forcing CFL players, on an average salary of some $70,000, to make football a 12-month job wouldn't make much sense. And if you weren't careful, you just know teams would organize "voluntary" camps and strongly encourage players to show up.

The union is right in not wanting to open up that can of worms.

But a one-day, April session in Florida, involving just three veteran players? Big deal.

If I'm Kelly, I'd be tempted to do it, anyway.

Bomber fans nervous about starting the season with the untested LeFors at the controls would no doubt applaud the idea.

Who's going to report it?

Certainly not the head of the CFL Players Association, Stu Laird, who's a Calgary firefighter and way too busy to be spying on the off-season activities of eight franchises.

Laird wasn't even aware of Winnipeg's intentions.

Which raises the question: exactly how did news of this planned transgression reach the CFL head office?

Could it be there was a snitch from a rival franchise, who just happened to read of Kelly's plans and dropped the dime on the first-year boss?

Welcome to the CFL, rookie. Where everybody knows everybody, but nobody trusts anybody. Where the saying, "All's fair in love and war" has been expanded to include football.

Where if you're not cheating, you're apparently not trying.

And where one man's propensity to speak his mind keeps getting him into trouble.

It's kind of like talking to potential free agents before free agency officially begins. Everybody does it. They just do it quietly.

We're going to give Kelly a pass on this one.

He certainly had the right intention.

He just needs to get a little sneakier.

Contact Paul at paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca or 632-2788.


Photos