Canadian Football League

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Boreham heading to third Canadian Football League team

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats dealt kicker Jamie Boreham to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in exchange for import defensive lineman Alvin Washington on Tuesday.
Boreham, 28, led the CFL last season with a 61.1 yard kickoff average. The Vancouver native also made 26 of 36 field goals (72.2 per cent). The five-foot-11 220-pounder is entering his fourth CFL season. He handled both punting and place-kicking duties in his first two seasons with the Tiger-Cats.
"We're very happy to acquire Jamie," Riders GM Eric Tillman said in a release. "At the conclusion of the 2006 season, we were very honest about making a commitment to upgrade certain elements of our kicking game.
"Luca (Congi) is a fixture as our field-goal kicker, but we expect to have a strong three-man competition for the punting and kickoff positions."
Washington, 22, a six-foot-one 280-pound native of Columbus, Ohio, signed as a free agent with the Riders in January after spending four seasons at Boston College.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Football greats to help with fundraiser for former Canadian Football League Coach

Six NFL championships, two Super Bowl wins, eight Pro Bowl appearances, all-NFL nine times, leading the league in punt returns one year and interceptions the next would be a pretty darn good career for any National Football League player.
But it was especially sweet for Willie Wood, who was not drafted out of college, but earned a spot with the legendary Green Bay Packers in 1960 as a free agent -- something many in pro football said would never happen.
Asked what he was proudest of during his Hall of Fame career, Wood answered, “that I made it as far as I did, especially when so many said I couldn’t.
Although he played quarterback in college, Wood, 70, came into the league before black men were allowed to start at the coveted position. He was turned into a free safety, and some observers doubted Wood would successfully make the transition from offense to defense.
“I really respect him for being able to make that change, physically and mentally,” said Willie Jones, a childhood friend of Wood who was a star basketball player at American University and won a Division II title in 1982 as coach at the University of the District of Columbia. “The way Willie went about making that change is just amazing.”
According to the Packers’ Web site, Wood was bypassed in the draft, and it took a letter-writing campaign, led by his Boys Club coach Bill Butler, to get him a shot at trying out in free agent camp. That opportunity, however, came at a cost.
“I had to drop out of school and go to training camp because I was (going to be) a February graduate, and I never did go back, unfortunately,” Wood told “The idea, you understand, was to go to Green Bay and make the team, and that I was able to accomplish.”

Letters went to several teams, according to the Packers site, but only the Packers responded.
After his first season, Wood won the starting position when he replaced an injured Jess Whittenton and made five interceptions down the stretch. Wood remained a starter, leading the league in punt returns in 1961 and in interceptions in 1962, until his retirement in 1971. Two years later, he was named head coach of the Philadelphia Bell of the World Football League and later was a head coach of the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts, the first black coach in either league. He was inducted into the pro football Hall of Fame in 1989.
After a stint at Coalinga Community College, now West Hills Community College, in California, Wood went to the University of Southern California, where he was the first black quarterback for the entire Pac-10 conference.
“I transferred from the University of Notre Dame to USC. I was one of the 'great white hopes' for the position, but Willie beat me out of the job, so I got even. I became his lawyer,” said Bob Schmidt, a former USC teammate who is organizing a roast honoring Wood on Friday in Washington, D.C., Wood’s hometown.
“It’s really turning into a cross between a roast and ‘This Is Your Life,’ the old Ralph Edwards television show,” Schmidt said.
Proceeds from the $200-a-plate dinner will go to pay Wood’s medical bills. Tickets are still available by calling (703) 827-5480, and contributions made out to the Vince Lombardi Foundation may be sent to P.O. Box H, McLean, Va. 22101. The memo field of contribution checks should say “Willie Wood Roast.”
Wood has been in an assisted living facility in Hyattsville, Md., since November and is awaiting knee replacement surgery, which is expected to take place shortly after Friday’s event.
“I had my right one replaced in the early ‘70s, and that worked out okay; now, I’ll get my left one done,” Wood said.
Wood has had a number of health problems in recent years and faces large medical bills from a series of surgeries to repair back, neck, spine and hip problems. Schmidt told that Wood also has some short-term memory problems.
Wood, like many NFL players who retired from the league before multi-million dollar contracts became commonplace, doesn’t have a large enough pension or enough health insurance to cover his medical bills.
The NFL and the NFL Players Association have taken a lot of heat recently for not doing a better job of providing for their older veterans. The NFL pays out $61 million in pensions, but most of that goes to players who came into the league after 1977.
“With the kind of revenue they generate, they should be able to help these guys who have problems,” Willie Jones told
Former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka put the league and Gene Upshaw, the executive director of the players association, on blast during Super Bowl week, saying the former players who are suffering financially today were the same players who forged the foundation upon which modern day football was built.
The players association has increased the size of pensions going to pre-1977 players, but Ditka said it was not enough.
“All we are saying,” Ditka told reporters, “is we got a lot of guys that started this game that have a lot of problems health wise and mental-wise. I say help them out. Help them out. Let them die with a little dignity and a little respect.”
Efforts by to reach Upshaw or a spokesman from the players association were unsuccessful.
However, Upshaw told the Chicago Tribune at a fundraiser at Ditka’s restaurant in Chicago last Thursday that the union paid 147 players with financial problems $1.2 million last year out of a special fund to deal with such issues.
“I’m paying guys’ funeral services. I’m paying for mortgages, but I can’t use their names,” Upshaw told the Tribune.
Ditka and former Packer Jerry Kramer have formed the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund, an online memorabilia auction to raise money to help retired players. A fan bought Ditka’s 1975 NFC championship ring, won when he coached for the Dallas Cowboys, in the online auction for $12,000.
Ditka and Kramer said their effort would be expanded to develop other fundraising events to help retired players.
Upshaw told the Tribune that the union and the league had been more involved in helping players than they were getting credit for.
“I knew about the Willie Wood situation before they did, and we responded to it. And he’ll be covered by the new plan that deals with dementia,” Upshaw told the newspaper.
He said the new collective bargaining agreement reached last year with the NFL has increased benefits to $700 million a year, including coverage for dementia and Alzheimer’s.
“I don’t get too excited about that (the pension issue) because I can’t control it,” Wood said. “Some of the guys should be getting a little bit more than they’ve been getting. For a special event, they can bring the guys in and give them something.
“I think about the guys who aren’t getting anything,” Wood said. “At least I’m getting some chump change.”
Regardless of what the league and the union do, Wood has a full complement of friends and admirers who are eager to help him.
The confirmed list of attendees includes fellow Hall of Fame Green Bay teammates Bart Starr, Paul Hornung and Willie Davis, non-Green Bay Hall of Fame members Sam Huff, Lenny Moore, Charlie Taylor, Bobby Mitchell and Jim Brown and former teammates Kramer, Dave Robinson, Bill Curry, Tom Brown and Lance Rentzel.
Schmidt said Steve Perry, the executive director of the Pro-Football Hall of Fame, will attend and that six Iraq war vets, currently undergoing treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, have been invited to attend.
“Willie Wood was one of those front-line pioneers,” said sportscaster James Brown. Brown, who will be in New York working the NCAA tournament on Friday, will miss the banquet, but he made a contribution to the roast.
“We all care about hometown teams, hometown players, and he was one of us -- and what he achieves was a source of pride for us. He was like a family member,” said Brown, a fellow native Washingtonian.
Brown told that as a boy, he played sandlot football with older boys in the neighborhood, many of whom pretended they were Wood as they played. When they talked about Wood, Brown said, “they would mention his name in reverential tones.”
“When I was a teenager or young pre-teen, he was the first professional athlete I met personally,” said Butch McAdams, co-host of a morning talk show on WOLB-AM in Baltimore. “At the time, I may have been 10 years old. I was a huge sports and football fan.”
A family friend brought Wood by McAdams’ home.
“As a kid, I was just in awe,” McAdams told
As an adult, McAdams met Wood again, and interviewed him several times for radio shows he hosted in Washington and, later, Baltimore.
“I was most impressed with him, as a man, by his availability,” McAdams said. “He was always available, always visible on the street. He didn’t have bodyguards, no entourage. When Mr. Wood came to be a guest on my show, he was always so gracious.”
Brown said he also felt proud when his former Fox Sports colleague, Howie Long, cited Wood when he praised early heroes of the game.
“Howie has a real appreciation of the history of the game,” Brown said. “That did my heart good to see him give his props to Mr. Wood and Mr. (Willie) Davis. I just smiled a smile of appreciation.
“I am so happy to hear that people haven’t forgotten and that folks are rallying to his support,” Brown said.
“Willie Wood should be remembered as being a guy who persevered, who was a quarterback and at the time the NFL wouldn’t allow that and he said, ‘If I can’t play quarterback, I’m going to play the position they give me and play it so well you can’t deny me,’” maintained McAdams.
“He should be remembered for his professionalism. He played the game hard and smart. And he was a leader.”

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Former Canadian Football League Coach up for U of H defensive coordinator job

It is too bad for Jeff Reinebold that absentee ballots are not allowed in choosing the next University of Hawai'i defensive coordinator for football.
Reinebold, UH's defensive line coach, and Greg McMackin are considered to be the finalists to succeed Jerry Glanville, who resigned to become Portland State's head coach.
Yesterday, Rob Ryan, defensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders, strongly endorsed Reinebold's candidacy.
"Jeff is a hell of a football coach," said Ryan, who is spending part of this working vacation as a consultant for the Warriors.
Ryan first met Reinebold several years ago, when Reinebold was a head coach in the Canadian Football League.
"I've kept in touch ever since," Ryan said. "I've learned a lot of football from Jeff."
Last month the Raiders invited Reinebold to interview for the job as special teams coordinator.
"We tried to get Jeff hired in Oakland," Ryan said. "We wanted him. He had the job. He just didn't have the heart to leave Hawai'i. He just couldn't leave Hawai'i. I understand that."