Canadian Football League

Friday, March 04, 2005

Edmonton moves foward with the Canadians in The Canadian Football League.

The Edmonton Eskimos officially upped their Canadian quotient yesterday. Defensive back Davis Sanchez and defensive lineman Tim Fleiszer, both former Montreal Alouettes, were rolled out for the local media at a late afternoon gathering.
Sanchez put his signature on a contract for three years plus an option worth roughly $840,000. Fleiszer scrawled his name on a more modest one-year plus an option deal.
Fleiszer, a Harvard grad, figures to line up at defensive end, while Sanchez will supplant import Darrel Crutchfield as the starting wide-side corner.
Naturally, the non-import signings have rookie Esks' head coach Danny Maciocia sporting a mile-wide grin.
"We're a much better football team than we were three weeks ago," gushed Maciocia, who knows both players from his ties to Montreal. "Our ratio went from one extreme to possibly the other extreme. It creates options as far as what we want to do with our imports and it gives us a certain flexibility."
The 30-year-old Sanchez is the biggest fish hooked out of the free-agent pool by the Esks this off-season. Known for his in-your-face style and penchant for drawing flags, the Vancouver area product has had his share of run-ins with Esks wide receiver Ed Hervey over the years. The long-simmering feud was highlighted by Hervey attempting to clobber Sanchez with his helmet during a melee in the 2003 Labour Day game.
But rather than striking Sanchez, Hervey clipped an official. Now they're both wearing the same colour jersey, the only trash-talking will be of the good-natured variety.
"The reason why me and him would have battles is we're both competitors," said the five-foot-11 corner. "I look forward to playing with him. Me and Ed buried the hatchet last year. Once you walk off the field, it's no longer an issue."
Hervey's failed attempt to clock Sanchez cost him roughly $9,000 in salary and a whole lot of embarrassment.
"It was a situation where his team made some threats and he was obligated to get in," explained Hervey, who was on hand for the Sanchez-Fleiszer unveiling. "You've got to admire a guy like that. Even if it was both of us going at it, you want guys like that on your team that are going to stick up for their teammates."
Like Sanchez, Hervey says it's time to move on. He actually lobbied for Sanchez after learning the corner was on the Esks' radar.
"It's the team-first attitude," Hervey said. "This isn't about me and who I want or don't want around. I know that he can help us win football games.
"Once Davis Sanchez gets a chance to understand Ed Hervey and I get a chance to understand him, I think we'll get along just fine."
Sanchez was courted by Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg and his hometown B.C. Lions. In the end, all the green and gold the Esks tossed his direction and the prospect of amassing a sizeable nest egg for life after football proved irresistible.
Sanchez says his age coupled with the four-year term likely means this is the last football contract he'll sign.
"That was the whole idea going into negotiations," noted Sanchez, who played for Montreal last season. "I don't want to jump all around. I'm going to find a home here and build relationships and win lots of football games."
Fleiszer, 29, has seven CFL seasons under his belt. He spent the last two in an Ottawa Renegades uniform and was a starter last season. That Maciocia plans to use him on the edge is one of the reasons he's excited to be in Edmonton.
"It's a position I feel more comfortable at," explained the six-foot-three, 266-pound lineman. "It allows me to play lighter and faster. Plus, they've got a fabulous team here and they're going to compete for the Grey Cup."

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Printers to be highest paid Canadian Football League player?

It appears that quarterback Casey Printers' ultimatum to British Columbia Lions management was enough to get the ball rolling toward a new contract.
Just one day after Printers set out a timeline for negotiating a new deal, the B.C. Lions have presented an offer to their star pivot.

Quarterback Casey Printers and his agent are trying to negotiate a new deal with the B.C. Lions before training camp.Printers' agent Jason Medlock told the Team 1040, a Vancouver sports radio station, that the Lions offered his client a three-year contract worth $1 million. Medlock and Printers were looking for the deal to be worth $1.4 over three years, which would make Printers the highest paid player in the Canadian Football League.
Printers, the CFL's most outstanding player last year, is obligated to play for the Lions in 2005 and then is free to explore other options.
On Tuesday, Medlock, on behalf of Printers, told Lions management to sign the player before training camp or Printers would head south next season.
"We're not in a rush, but we won't be talking when the season starts," Medlock told the Vancouver Province.
"(Printers) will be in his option year and we hope the club doesn't want us negotiating with the NFL."
Printers, 23, flourished in his second season with B.C., throwing for 5,088 yards and a league-high 35 touchdowns for the Western Division champions.
Printers connected on 325 of 494 pass attempts for a 65.8 per cent completion rate, tying him with Edmonton's Jason Maas for first in the CFL.
He was also the top rushing quarterback with 469 yards on 82 carries (5.7-yard average).
After taking over from an injured Dave Dickenson and leading B.C. to a 13-5 record, Printers was benched for the team's 27-19 Grey Cup loss to Toronto in November.
Lions general manager and head coach Wally Buono talked with Medlock on Monday and seemed satisfied with the status of negotiations.
"I could put something together tomorrow," he said, "but I'd rather give some thought to it so we can make some progress."

Sunday, February 27, 2005

After several delays, the 2005 Canadian Football League schedule is ready to be released. It's expected that on Monday the final draft will be unveiled following some final tinkering by the Argos, who had to work out some details with Rogers Communications following its official takeover of the SkyDome -- now known as Rogers Centre -- earlier this month.
"I can easily say it's a tremendous home schedule," Argos president Keith Pelley said yesterday. "I think it's so much better than last year."
Pelley would not disclose specific dates on the schedule but reiterated that there would be more weekend dates than last year which had several weekday games.
It's already known that the Argos first game will be at home on June 25 against the B.C. Lions in a rematch of last year's Grey Cup, which Toronto won 27-19 in Ottawa.
There also have been rumours that the Argos will play back-to-back games in the same weeks against Hamilton, beginning with the annual Labour Day clash, followed by a return match the following Saturday in Toronto.
The Ottawa Renegades have talked to the Argos about acquiring defensive end Eric England, but Toronto isn't willing to deal at this point.
Argos vice-president of football operations Adam Rita said there isn't a specific deal Ottawa is proposing to acquire England, who tied for the league lead in sacks two years ago with 14.
The Renegades have the second pick overall in the CFL draft in April. Rita said that would be a "good start," but wants additional high draft picks.
"Like I told them, I'm not really all that interested in trading Eric England to an Eastern team, but they're going to have to come up with something good," Rita said. "I'm not interested in a body or anything right now. Our roster is pretty well full. I'm interested in the future.
"Right now clubs are talking, but talking and actually doing it is a far remote thing. If people are interested in some of our guys and are willing to make a win-win situation, I'm interested -- you can put the word out -- but I'm not interested in dismantling this team. We have a few players that maybe are extra."
England re-signed with the Argos just before he was scheduled to become a free agent on Feb. 16.
Former Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Dave Ritchie has been named defensive co-ordinator of the B.C. Lions, the club announced yesterday.
Ritchie returns to the city where he enjoyed his greatest success -- he led the Lions to a Grey Cup as head coach in 1994.
Following yesterday's signing of free-agent quarterback Henry Burris by Calgary, the Stamps are waiving Khari Jones, whom the previous football administration acquired in a trade last year from Winnipeg. While both Hamilton and Edmonton may have interest, it's expected Saskatchewan, which lost Burris, will sign Jones once he clear waivers to a deal that will pay between $150,000 to $200,000 a season ... Look for Hamilton to announce a couple free-agent signings next week. Possible names include defensive ends Rahim Abdullah and Roger Dunbrack and receiver Corey Grant.

MOUNT DORA Dominick Clayton thought his football playing days were over.
But three years after suffering what he believed was a career-ending injury, Clayton has a chance to do something he never imagined: Become a professional football player.
The former Mount Dora High School standout is in camp this weekend with the National Indoor Football League’s Kissimmee Kreatures. Clayton will participate in two-a-days today and Sunday in hopes of making the first round of cuts for the expansion franchise.
“I think it will be fun,” Clayton said. “I haven’t done it in a while. A lot of guys are trying to use this to advance to the AFL (Arena Football League) or NFL. If it happens for me, it happens.”
Clayton was an all-county utility player at Mount Dora as a senior in 1997. He went on to study and to play football at John Carroll University, a Division III school in Ohio.
After graduating, Clayton worked out with the AFL’s Orlando Predators and then signed with the Jacksonville Tomcats of arena football league 2. But Clayton separated his shoulder in training camp in 2002 and lost his opportunity.
Three years later, Clayton, who teaches special education math and coaches three sports at Mount Dora, is ready to give professional football another try.
Clayton said he thought he was “done” after he separated his shoulder. The injury helped turn his focus to teaching and coaching. Not only is Clayton, 26, pursuing a master’s degree in educational leadership at Barry University in Miami Shores, but he also is head track and field coach and an assistant boys basketball and football coach.
To stay active, Clayton started playing in flag football league in Orlando in 2003 and is a member of a tournament traveling team.
“I was just trying to stay in shape and have some fun,” Clayton said.
Little did Clayton know he had caught someone’s eye. Darnell Harrison, the Kreatures’ defensive coordinator, spotted Clayton at a flag football game and recommended to coach Marquette Smith that the Kreatures bring him in for a tryout.
“We’re always looking for local talent and to find as many diamonds in the rough. With (Dominick) it was a double whammy,” Smith said. “Our whole coaching staff is very involved in the flag football circuit, and Darnell said (Dominick was) a guy who was real good, who had played college ball and arena 2 ball and was a local guy. We got real lucky with Dominick.”
Still, Clayton said no to Harrison the first time he asked him to play for the Kreatures in October 2004. Clayton said Harrison’s persistence ultimately changed his mind.
Now the cornerback / wide receiver has a chance to get paid to play football.
The Kreatures put prospective players through speed testing Tuesday and strength testing Wednesday. This weekend will serve as the first cut to get the team down to 40 players.
The team will trim its roster to 30 in time for its season opener against the Montgomery (Ala.) Maulers on March 19 at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee.
“This is a great starting point for a lot of guys,” Smith said. “I think it is considered a step above afl2 based on what I have heard. We’re basically the equivalent to the (Class) AA for the NFL.”
Smith, who also serves as the Kreatures’ general manager, was a member of Florida State’s 1993 national championship team. He transferred to Central Florida and became the first running back at UCF to gain 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons (1994, ’95).
The Carolina Panthers drafted Smith in the fifth round of the 1996 draft, but he tore ligaments in his left knee in the last preseason game. He also tore ligaments in his left knee in 1997 and was released by the Panthers at the end of training camp in 1998.
Smith went on to play with the Rhein Fire in NFL Europe in ’98 and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL. He also has played in the Arena Football League, the defunct XFL and the NIFL.
He said the NIFL is a great opportunity for players and coaches to hone their skills and possibly to parlay it into a chance to move to the AFL, CFL or NFL.
“A lot of guys from arena football league 2 are moving over here,” Smith said. “A lot of guys move up to AFL, but more guys go to the CFL or to the NFL. I think you will see 10 guys get to NFL camp, with a bunch going to the AFL and a bunch going to the CFL.”
Smith said the team’s operational budget is anywhere from $250,000 to $500,000. He said players would sign a contract and could make up to $30,000 a season, depending on their experience.
Smith said he has liked what he has seen from Clayton and feels there will plenty of competition amongst his team’s receivers.
“Dominick has afl2 experience and he runs great routes and he has soft hands and a great work ethic,” Smith said. “He is a coachable kid who wants to do it and who wants to learn. When he is on the field he gives 100 percent.
“The best trait he has is when he runs his routes he doesn’t give up on the ball. If the quarterback doesn’t throw the ball, he still will work to get open.”
The NIFL started with 18 teams in 2001. It has expanded to 21 teams this season, and it has three other teams (Daytona Beach, Lakeland and Miami) in the state of Florida. The league’s commissioner, Carolyn Shiver, is a native of Wildwood.
Smith said Kissimmee’s 30-player roster would include spots for five players to be placed on injured reserve. He said the Kreatures would have a 21-player travel squad and a four-player taxi squad, or inactive roster, that would rotate week to week.
Smith said one difference between the NIFL, which is endorsed by the NFL, and the AFL is that the NIFL runs a Canadian motion, with three players in motion. The AFL has one player go in motion.
He said each of the eight players on offense and defense specialize in their positions and likely won’t go both ways. Clayton doesn’t know if his chance with Kissimmee will lead to opportunities in other professional football leagues, but he is excited about his chances.
“My outlook is just to have some fun,” Clayton said. “I never thought I would play the game again, so that is a blessing in itself.”

They're not going to make him an offer he can't refuse - deals like that are reserved for starting quarterbacks and the Eskimos already have one - but if Khari Jones is interested in Edmonton, they just might be interested in him. When the Stampeders signed Henry Burris yesterday it spelled the end of Jones in Calgary, so the 2001 CFL MVP is looking for work.
"It's hard for me to say whether he does or he doesn't fit into our plans,'' said head coach Danny Maciocia.
"We're always looking to create as much competition as possible. He was only released a few hours ago so it's not something that's crossed my mind or the organization's mind as of right now, but can that change in the very near future? Potentially it could. It's possible.''
With the Eskimos as thin as they are at pivot, there's a definite need for experience: free agent Bart Hendricks isn't expected back and after Maas there's only third-stringer Jason Johnson, who's never started a CFL game. So the Eskimos are definitely in the market for depth.
But are their pockets deep enough for Jones (who'd have to seriously chop back his $350,000 Stamps deal) and could Jones get his head around the backup role?
"He's probably going to look for a destination where he feels he can start,'' said Maciocia. "He's going to shop himself around, I think. But if he can't find that destination, then chances are he's going to have to start settling for more of a backup role.
"But he needs to accept that between the ears before you impose it on him.''
Jones would provide solid insurance if Maas runs into more injury trouble, but how would the incumbent react to having a proven veteran looking over his shoulder?
"I know Jason well enough, and he'd probably say, 'Bring it on, bring as many as you like, I'll compete,' '' said Maciocia.
"That's who Jason Maas is, that's why I like Jason Maas and that's why his teammates respect him. He's the type of guy who never takes anything for granted. All he wants is an opportunity. Competition doesn't scare him. He's not afraid of what he brings to the table.''
It would still be a QB controversy waiting to happen.
"The moment you have two guys who have had success, regardless of which two they are, there is always going to be some form of controversy,'' said Maciocia.
"You just need to know how to handle it. We had that situation here for a short period of time with Ricky Ray and Jason. And I had it Montreal with Tracy Ham and Anthony Calvillo.
"You just need to know how to address it - you have to put the cards on the table and by doing so you're not going to have a problem.''