Begrudging Blue

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:20 PM ET

If the Canadian Football League’s expansion draft were happening this year, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers would lose either quarterback Buck Pierce or Steven Jyles.

The league Wednesday released the rules for stocking an expansion team in Ottawa — more than two years before it’ll take the field.

Maybe they thought they’d better get it out now, before some GMs change their minds.

Because the idea of being able to protect just one quarterback causes even the best prepared GM to develop a bad rash, a nervous tick and a severe case of, “WTF?”

“Ya think?” Winnipeg’s Joe Mack said, the sarcasm dripping through the phone from Orlando, where Mack is scouting the East-West Shrine game.

The Bombers rep on the expansion committee, Mack sounded like a man who only begrudgingly agreed to the plan, designed to give Ottawa a fighting chance to be competitive in its first season.

“We had a lot of discussions about that,” Mack said, as close as he’d come to acknowledging the boardroom battle. “Just think about if it was this year for us. I mean, who do we protect? And do we end up losing somebody (who) could have been a projected starter for us? And maybe our other quarterbacks don’t come back healthy. Yeah, that could be quite entertaining when we come around to that.

“I don’t think any of us are happy about potentially losing one of our top two or three quarterbacks.”

It’s hard to blame them.

You work for years to find an established starter, and if you’re lucky you’ll also find one worth developing into a starter — only to be forced to hand one over to an upstart team?

“The league felt strongly they had to be able to potentially get a quality quarterback,” Mack said. “We kind of, for the sake of the league, acquiesced.”

One of the teams standing up for Ottawa when it came down to a vote was Saskatchewan.

“Everybody wants to cover their own ass,” Riders GM Brendan Taman said. “If Ottawa looks embarrassingly bad again, who looks bad, really? We all do. Let’s take a bigger picture here. Everybody eventually ended up doing that.”

Hypothetically, if the draft were today, Ottawa could end up with either Jyles or Pierce, and one of Calgary’s Drew Tate, Hamilton’s Quinton Porter or Montreal’s Adrian McPherson, three of the better backups in the league.

Not bad, compared to the last expansion draft.

Back in 2002, teams were allowed to protect two quarterbacks each, leaving the Ottawa Renegades eight guys who were still learning to hold a clipboard.

The ’Gades wound up going into the season with immortal free agents Dan Crowley, Oteman Sampson and Chuck Clements.

The result: a predictable 4-14.

The rules this time will also allow teams to protect just six Canadians, meaning at least one starting Canadian per team could be exposed.

On the import side, teams will protect 10, in addition to a quarterback.

The most each team can lose is two Canadians, and one import.

Like quarterbacks, kickers get special treatment. If a team loses a kicker, it can’t lose a quarterback, and vice-versa.

Teams losing a quarterback also get to protect two extra Canadians (eight, instead of six). Teams losing a kicker get to protect one extra Canadian.

Most of the rules aren’t much different than they were in ’02.

But the biggest one is.

“We understand the league needs to grow and expand and Ottawa’s an important market, because it’s the capital of the nation,” Mack said.

You could say quarterbacks are the capital of any football team, too.

“They’ll probably end up with two pretty good ones,” Taman said.

Let’s hope.

Because it’s the only way they’ll have any.

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


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