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CFL

CFL toying with rule changes to increase scoring

By Kirk Penton, Winnipeg Sun

Hamilton Tiger-Cats' Bakan Grant (right) celebrates with a teammate after scoring a touchdown against the Toronto Argonauts during their CFL Labour Day Classic game in Hamilton September 1, 2014. (REUTERS/Fred Thornhill)

Hamilton Tiger-Cats' Bakan Grant (right) celebrates with a teammate after scoring a touchdown against the Toronto Argonauts during their CFL Labour Day Classic game in Hamilton September 1, 2014. (REUTERS/Fred Thornhill)

Former CFL commissioner Mark Cohon wasn’t kidding when he said last November the league would look at ways to increase scoring in the off-season.

Several sources have told QMI Agency in recent weeks the CFL is toying with a handful of new rules, most of which would lead to more points being put on the board. Most of the proposals, which the competition committee will discuss and vote on next week in Toronto before the CFL combine, involve special teams.

Even if new rules are passed next week, the CFL’s board of governors would still have to approve them in April or May. That has some coaches worried that so many big changes would be happening too close to the start of the season.

There’s no arguing that many games last season were an offensive bore, with total points per game going from 52.4 to 45.5 and offensive points dropping from 48.7 to 37.7 from the year before. There have been several theories as to why this happened, from a rash of quarterback injuries to Canadian talent being spread too thin due to the addition of the expansion Ottawa RedBlacks.

It appears the CFL isn’t going to wait to see if last season was an anomaly, because there are some significant rule changes being bandied about.

The most intriguing one appears to involve the punting facet of the game. There has been endless debate about the five-yard halo that surrounds returners and leads to a glut of no-yards penalties, and there apparently was talk this off-season about getting rid of it. Instead, a proposal expected to be discussed next week will call for the punt team to remain behind the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked. That would give the accepting team a little more time to set up a return.

It also looks like the league will try to entice its teams to go for a two-point convert more often than not. The competition committee will discuss moving the point after attempt back, possibly as far as the 25-yard line, which would make it a 32-yard attempt. Meanwhile, the two-point convert line of scrimmage would be moved up two yards to the three-yard line.

Another source said the league is looking at instituting a 30-second play clock that will begin as soon as the ball is spotted on the line of scrimmage instead of when the referee signals for it to start. That would likely make the CFL game a little more speedy than it already is. Good news for offences. Bad news for defences.

There is also talk the league will look at allowing called or potential offensive pass interference to be reviewable as well next season. Currently only defensive pass interference can be challenged by coaches.

SPACED OUT

The CFL confirmed Thursday its draft will be held May 12, which had long been rumoured as the big day anyway.

It’s good news for CFL teams, which will have more time to determine if Canadians hoping to get to the NFL have a legitimate shot at making a roster down south. Since the NFL moved its draft up a week this year to have it conclude on May 2, it means there will be 10 days between the NFL’s and CFL’s. Last year the gap was only three days.

NFL teams sign a barrage of free agents in the days after its draft, and that often includes Canadian players who are eligible for the CFL. Not only will CFL teams know who signs south of the border, but those players might also take part in mini-camps — and maybe even get released — before the CFL makes its picks.

CFL teams also can usually find out how much guaranteed money a player receives from an NFL team, which is a good indicator of their chances of sticking around until training camp in July.

GETTING DEEPER

Speaking of the draft, it appears the rich will only get richer on May 12.

The two Grey Cup finalists from last year, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Calgary Stampeders, have the most picks in what many are calling the deepest draft in years. The Tabbies lead the way with nine selections in the seven-round draft, while the defending Grey Cup-champion Stamps are next with eight.

What makes Calgary’s draft look even better is the fact it has five picks among the first 27. The Stampeders are already the cream of the CFL crop when it comes to Canadian talent, and it should only get better on draft day if not through picks, but trades as well.

NO MORE

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland made headlines this week when he announced his retirement after just one season due to potential long-term concerns about his health.

The 24-year-old’s decision prompted plenty of discussion about the topic of concussions and the fear many have over their long-term effects.

Then came a one-word press release from the Eskimos Thursday afternoon, stating quite simply that quarterback Pat White was announcing his retirement from football. He spent only one season with the Eskimos and is 29 years old, but he suffered what appeared to be a serious concussion last season.

There was surprise in Edmonton that White was calling it a career. No reason was given for his decision, but the concussion he suffered leads to speculation it might have had something to do with it. If it is, the question becomes: How many will follow his lead?

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/PentonKirk


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