Getting tackled in the CFL can be a hair-raising experience and it is all perfectly legal.
The issue came up recently after Montreal Alouettes kick returner Trent Guy was pulled down during a punt return by his long hair, which he wears in dreadlocks, during Montreal's 31-10 win over the Toronto Argonauts Sunday.
There was no penalty on the play and rightly so, said CFL director of officiating Tom Higgins. A flag was thrown after Toronto's Mike Bradwell performed the hair tackle, but it was overturned.
"At the end of the day, they had to make the rules fair for the guys who don't have hair," said Bombers wide receiver Kito Poblah with a laugh on Tuesday. Poblah has dreadlocks that touch his shoulders.
"It is, I guess, a precaution," he said. "You've just got to hope that nobody grabs your hair and keep your head low," said Poblah, who recorded his first CFL touchdown in last Friday's 34-12 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Canad Inns Stadium.
Though it's not a widely accepted way to tackle an opponent, Poblah said it's already happened to him.
"The last play against Edmonton (42-10 loss to the Eskimos on July 13). I caught the ball and the (Eskimos defender) yanked my hair and, it felt like, oh, I was pretty stuck," Poblah said. "I didn't say anything to him about it, I was kind of upset because we were losing the game and it was the last play and I just wanted to get off the field."
Poblah said he's adapted his 'doo to the rule.
"I knew that and that's why I trim mine. They've been this length for a while now," he said. "For an offensive guy being tackled, you have to know they can grab your hair whenever they want."
Bombers head coach Tim Burke said his players can decide for themselves if their hair is a hindrance.
"I'm not going to tell them what to do with their hair. I remember when I was a teenager, I wanted to grow my hair long and my dad wouldn't let me," Burke said with a smile.
"It's part of the equipment and I knew that so it didn't surprise me when they didn't flag him for it."
Higgins told The Canadian Press that long hair is considered to be part of a player's equipment and can be used in tackling.
"It's part of the uniform. It's like tackling a guy by the arm," Higgins said. "It's part of him so you're allowed to use it to make a tackle."
Burke said he agrees with the rule, because otherwise players could grow their hair "all the way down" to make it tough for defenders to tackle them without getting a handful of hair.
He said it works the other way too, with opposition receivers using a defender's long hair to try to gain a positional advantage.
"I've got a couple of defensive backs with long dreads and every once in a while a receiver will grab them by the hair and just pull them," Burke said, referring to Bombers defensive backs Jonathan Hefney and Alex Suber. "That way, they can get a release off of the defensive back. It can be a hindrance."
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