News from Edmonton not the shot in the arm the CFL is looking for

Elks' positive results for COVID creates scheduling issues for league


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TORONTO — You know things aren't going well for the Canadian Football League when the biggest news of the week happens after the weekend's games have concluded.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/08/2021 (575 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

TORONTO — You know things aren’t going well for the Canadian Football League when the biggest news of the week happens after the weekend’s games have concluded.

Rather than focusing on how the Saskatchewan Roughriders (3-0) entered their bye week as the only remaining unbeaten team this year, or the Calgary Stampeders (1-2) upsetting the Montreal Alouettes (1-1) to prevent going 0-3 for the first time in nearly 20 years, all eyes are instead on the Edmonton Elks (1-2).

Edmonton rocked the CFL world when they announced late Sunday that several players had tested positive for COVID-19, with the league then making the decision to cancel their Week 4 matchup against the Toronto Argonauts scheduled for Thursday night.

“This is in keeping with the standard of care for COVID-19 and professional sport,” the league’s statement read in part. “It also reflects our desire to put the health and safety of our players, coaches and staff — as well as public health — above all other considerations.”

The CFL has committed to rescheduling the game, but how and when they will do that still needs to be figured out. The Elks are under the jurisdiction of provincial health officers, who will decide when they can return to the playing field. Players coaches and support staff will undergo an enhanced testing protocol, which includes isolation.

If it sounds bad, that’s because it is. And there are other factors to consider outside of some very bad luck. As is always the case, there’s plenty to get through from Week 3, so let’s get started with the latest installment of CFL Rundown:

1) The Elks situation has the potential to get real ugly, especially if the CFL is forced to cancel the game. Edmonton has one of the lowest rates of vaccinated personnel, and would not reach the 85 per cent threshold put forth by the league to prevent players from forfeiting a game cheque in the event it can’t be rescheduled;

2) There’s a reason why Edmonton is among the least vaccinated teams in the CFL, and it’s because a number of their key players refuse to get the shot. And, I’m told that extends up to parts of the front office as well. We’re getting to a point where some tough questions need to be asked — and some tough decisions made;

3) As for rescheduling the game, this is going to be extremely difficult logistically. Seeing how quickly the CFL was to cancel the game, this is obviously serious. My guess is we’re going to see a significant number of infected players, and/or unvaccinated close contacts, meaning isolation. Enough players in isolation would surely make a rematch in late August impossible. The other option being thrown around is the third week of October, when the Elks are slated to have a bye. But with the Argos having games on the 6th, 11th, 22nd and 30th of that month, I can’t imagine adding another game falls in line with the league’s commitment to player safety;

4) No teams have reached the 85 per cent goal, though a few are waiting for the required two weeks post second dose to add to their numbers and potentially hit that mark. Does what happen this week change the minds of those players who are still on the fence?;

5) One last point on vaccinations: with the federal government expected to enforce full vaccination for air travellers within Canada come fall, CFL teams are being told to move forward with the expectation players will not get an exemption. If that’s not enough to convince players, nothing will;

6) Edmonton didn’t look great against B.C. Thursday night but they did look better, particularly on offence. That said, after Trevor Harris connected with Mike Jones for a touchdown early into the second quarter, Edmonton scored just six points — and Harris threw for a modest 117 yards — in the second half against a not very good Lions team. This team is still deeply flawed;

7) After one catch for one yard in Week 2, Greg Ellingson reeled in nine of 10 attempts for 148 yards. James Wilder Jr. also had his best week, racking up 127 rushing yards, in what’s been a strong start to the season. The Elks need big weeks from both guys to compete in the West;

8) Michael Reilly is once again getting beat up this year thanks to a leaky O-line. What’s the point of paying that kind of money, and having highly skilled receivers, if your quarterback is constantly running for his life. Reilly finished with 128 passing yards and one rushing touchdown, while getting sacked three times;

8) What great news for the B.C. Lions, who announced they’ve been sold to local entrepreneur Amar Doman. I don’t know him, but he’s saying all the right things, including making a strong commitment to the community. Being of South Asian descent, Doman is also the first minority owner in nearly 20 years, bringing a much-needed perspective to the CFL;

9) I believe Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson when he says the team was unaware QB Bo Levi Mitchell had a fractured fibula when he took the field in Week 2. The better question is why not? Dickenson appreciated the opportunity to explain the Stampeders would have never let him play under those conditions, but he couldn’t say definitively what showed up on the first or second MRI because he admitted he hadn’t read any of it. Again, why not?;

10) Mitchell was added to the six-game injured list but Dickenson also said he was optimistic he could be back sooner. I’m told that’s unlikely, with some even suggesting there’s a chance he’s out even longer. I’ll guess we’ll see, but given what’s unfolded this week I’m not exactly confident in the Stampeders prognosis;

11) I understand why fans are up in arms that Jake Maier got the start over QB Michael O’Connor — but it has nothing to do with his Canadian passport. Take that away and it’s still bizarre that a player who has been second on the depth chart all season and who has CFL experience wouldn’t get the shot over Maier, who had never taken a snap in the league. I also think it’s a moot point because despite tossing two interceptions for touchdowns, Maier still got the job done.

12) There aren’t going to be many weeks that Vernon Adams Jr. looked the way he did against the Stamps. He completed just one pass in the third quarter and though his numbers weren’t horrible — 261 passing yards, two TDs compared to one interception — most of that came in a last-ditch effort that ultimately failed a couple yards short. Perhaps a bit of a wakeup call for the Alouettes, who had praise dumped all over them following a convincing Week 2 win over a so-so Edmonton club;

13) After suffering their first loss of 2021 to the Argonauts, 30-23, on Saturday, owing mostly to a tough day by the offence, the feeling is the Blue Bombers are in desperate need of running back Andrew Harris. Harris would definitely be a welcomed asset but I see this more as a group who maybe needed a piece of humble pie after feeling too good in recent weeks. That included a soundbite from talented receiver Kenny Lawler, who said the Bombers 2021 offence had the potential to not only be the best in Bombers history, but in the history of the entire CFL;

14) Expect Harris to increase his workload at practice this week. He’s getting closer to a return;

15) Toronto looks like a good and fun team to watch this season. So it’s a shame few people care in the city, including the ownership group. There is next to no Argonauts signage anywhere in the city and when you look at the main entrance of the Scotiabank Arena, MLSE has decided to include the logos of the Maple Leafs, Raptors and Toronto FC. I wouldn’t make such a fuss if it had been the Leafs and Raptors — at least they play there — but the home of Toronto FC is the same home of the Argos;

16) Whether the hit from Brandon Alexander on DaVaris Daniels was legal or not, I think we can all agree we don’t like seeing a player lie motionless on the ground while his brain tries to play catchup. I don’t know how you prevent it — Alexander said postgame the officials noted it was a fair hit; review came down only because Daniels was injured — but the less of that the better. Either way, best wishes for Daniels in his recovery;

17) Shout out to Bombers Mike Miller, who had three special teams tackles Saturday to move him into the all-time CFL lead, with 192 — two more than the 190 set by former Lions player Jason Arakgi. Miller is a great player, and as humble as they come in the CFL;

18) TSN’s Dave Naylor tweeted out last week that sources told him that Ottawa Redblacks QB Matt Nichols has nothing structurally wrong with his throwing arm and is not playing through injury. Ok, then what’s the problem?;

19) Roughriders looked good again. And so did QB Cody Fajardo. They’re off this week and then return for back-to-back games against the Bombers. Good place to cement yourself as best in the CFL, and build a bigger lead at the top, with a pair of wins against your prairie rival. First, though, they’ll have to shed the Mosaic curse, as the Bombers seem to most often find a way to spoil the party in Riderville. twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

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