Archive for the ‘CFL’ Category

The BC Lions announced Wednesday that international defensive end Odell Willis has agreed to terms on a contract for the 2019 season.

Willis joined the Leos by way of trade with the Ottawa REDBLACKS prior to the 2018 campaign and went on to appear in all 18 regular season games, notching 22 defensive stops and a team-high 11 sacks.

“Odell was a productive and important addition to our defence this year and securing his return for 2019 is excellent news for our team and our fans,” said GM Ed Hervey.

The 10-year CFL vet pushed his career totals to 173 regular season appearances with 240 defensive stops and 97 sacks.

“We obviously did not end the season the way wanted but from the beginning of the year through to the final week we really came together as a team,” said Willis. “I cannot wait to get back on the field next year and be a part of what Ed is putting together here in BC.”

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Halifax’s proposed CFL franchise now has a name — the Atlantic Schooners.

“I’m happy to announce that the 10th team in the CFL will be known as the Atlantic Schooners,” John Ryerson announced to thunderous cheers from hundreds of fans Friday night.

Ryerson spoke at the annual Grey Cup East Coast Kitchen Party. He is the organizer of this longtime Grey Cup social, designed to bring an East Coast flavour to Canada’s big game.

Schooners beat out other suggestions such as Atlantic Convoy, Storm, and Admirals.

It was picked in a contest and already has a history. The Schooners was to be the name for a proposed CFL team in the 1980s, but that dream never materialized.

Fans at the Kitchen Party said it was the right choice.

“I love the name. I was hoping it was going to stay Schooners,” said Daryl Shipman from Winnipeg, clad in a blue Schooners jersey.

“It epitomizes the East Coast, sailing ships, and the Maritime aspect of it.”

Leslie-Anne McKenzie of Calgary, also in Schooner Blue, agreed

“(It’s) absolutely the right name. This is excellent news for the league,” she said.

“The Schooners only makes sense because it’s history.”

Next up is getting a place to play.

The Maritime Football Partnership, which is pursuing the bid, is eyeing a parcel of land on the east side of Halifax harbour for a 24,000-seat facility. The cost is estimated at $170 million to $190 million and the group has said it will need public help with the financing.

So far more than 5,000 fans have put down season ticket deposits.

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie says the CFL is keen to have Halifax become its 10th franchise.

Earlier Friday, speaking to reporters, Ambrosie said the league has signed a step-by-step agreement of what needs to be accomplished to get the franchise launched.

“Ultimately, the big hurdle is the stadium,” said Ambrosie.

But he stressed the willingness is there.

“We’re totally committed to their efforts get that 10th team,” he said.

“For many of us, that’s been a dream now for decades the idea of this truly coast to coast Canadian football league.”

Storied Halifax nevertheless will likely send CFL players running to their atlases, according to a random, unscientific poll of Grey Cup participants in Edmonton.

“(It’s the) first time I heard about Halifax to be honest with you,” said Ottawa Redlbacks receiver R.J. Harris.

“I don’t know anything about it.”

Ottawa slotback Dominique Rhymes, from Miami, had heard good things about the entertainment scene.

“I heard the night life is pretty good,” he said. “I’ve never been, but I think I might go in the coming months.”

Calgary Stampeders linebacker Jamar Wall, from Texas, said “I don’t know anything about Halifax.

“I’ll probably be long gone before that (franchise) happens, but good luck to the guys who could potentially be there.”

A judge has ordered former CFL running back Jerome Messam to make a personal appearance in court next week on a charge of voyeurism.

“This is the 7th appearance so that’ll be the eighth,” Calgary provincial court Judge Sean Dunnigan said Tuesday. “Personal attendance of Messam is required on Nov. 15.”

Messam was playing for the Calgary Stampeders when police allege a consensual sexual encounter was videotaped without the other person’s consent in November 2016.

Police say the person came forward in April after being told Messam had the alleged tape, which police said had not been posted anywhere.

Messam hired Toronto lawyer Gavin Holder, who wasn’t in court Tuesday, but had asked for a two-week delay through duty counsel.

Crown prosecutor Lindsey Bedier said she was opposed to any further delays given the alleged offence occurred two years ago.

“The Crown wants this matter to move along.”

Bedier said Holder arranged for a phone meeting last week with the Crown but never called or rescheduled.

Dunnigan ordered the duty counsel to call Holder’s office and arrange for an earlier time.

“He knows it was the last day today. Why is he looking for 14 days? Tell him we’re not impressed with no reasons.”

Messam was released by the Saskatchewan Roughriders this year after charges were laid. The league said it would not register a contract for Messam should any team attempt to sign him.

The Montreal Alouettes issued a statement Wednesday on quarterback Johnny Manziel, who’s been absent from practice this week:

“On Tuesday morning, Johnny Manziel mentioned to our medical staff that he felt symptoms that could be associated with the prescribed medication he uses for a previously diagnosed medical condition. He then missed practice in order to have some blood work done. In view of the hit he received on Saturday and the potential mitigating side effects of his prescribed medication, the Alouettes medical staff has placed Manziel under the CFL concussion protocol for further observation and precautionary reasons. Manziel will be closely observed and assessed in the next few days.”

Manziel didn’t practise on Tuesday or Wednesday. According to multiple reports, Antonio Pipkin has handled first-team reps in Manziel’s absence, while Matthew Shiltz could also be available.

The Als take on the Edmonton Eskimos on Saturday night at the Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium.

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Johnny Manziel admitted his CFL debut on Friday was a “humbling experience” after throwing four first-half interceptions against his former team, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, in a 50-11 defeat.

“It went just about as bad as it could possibly go,” said Manziel, according to TSN.

Manziel only participated in four practices with his new team following a July 22 trade before being thrown into the fire against Hamilton. However, he emphasized the poor outing Friday won’t derail his football comeback.

“Moving forward, this is only going to motivate me,” said Manziel. “I know this is a test. This is a test of my will and my drive, and I’ve put too much time and too much effort (in) to let this get away from me.”

The 25-year-old flashed the scrambling skills that earned him the nickname “Johnny Football” at Texas A&M, but he mostly looked unprepared for the speed of the game. He completed just 11 of 20 passes for 104 yards and no touchdowns to go along with his four picks.

“Bad days happen in football,” said Manziel.

Manziel will likely start his second CFL game on August 8 against the Ottawa RedBlacks.

Johnny Football is on the move.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats dealt quarterback Johnny Manziel and offensive linemen Tony Washington and Landon Rice to the Montreal Alouettes on Sunday for Canadian defensive end Jamaal Westerman and receiver Chris Williams as well as 2020 and 2021 first-round picks.

Manziel, 25, made headlines across North America when he signed a two-year contract with Hamilton prior to the start of training camp. The former Heisman Trophy winner appeared in both of the Ticats’ exhibition games — completing 21-of-31 passes for 168 yards and a TD while rushing six times for 19 yards — but didn’t see any regular-season action backing up incumbent Jeremiah Masoli.

Masoli started the season impressively with four straight 300-yard passing performances and a record-tying nine overall dating back to last year. But that streak ended with Thursday night’s 31-20 home loss to Saskatchewan as Masoli completed 20-of-28 passing for 184 yards and an interception.

And that prompted some football pundits to suggest it was time for Manziel to get some playing time with Hamilton.

“Professional salute & respect for ↕Ticats ↕ticatmitchell &Coach Jones for doing the rgt thing.Thank y’all for the opp &great luck in future!” Manziel’s agent, Erik Burkhardt, tweeted Sunday night.

With the departure of Manziel, Dane Evans, a rookie from Tulsa, becomes Masoli’s backup. Hamilton (2-3) hosts the Ottawa Redblacks (3-2) on Saturday afternoon in a battle of the East Division’s top two teams.

Shortly after the deal was made Hamilton announced that it would give away $100 vouchers to fans who bought a Manziel Ticats jersey to purchase ‘new gear’ for Saturday’s game at Tim Hortons Field.

The trade reunites Manziel with Montreal head coach Mike Sherman, who convinced Manziel to play at Texas A&M after he verbally committed to Oregon. As a redshirt freshman, Manziel threw for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns while rushing for 1,410 yards and 21 TDs en route to winning the ’12 Heisman Trophy.

The six-foot, 210-pound Manziel was taken in the first round, No. 22 overall, by the Cleveland Browns in the 2014 NFL draft but was released in March 2016 after posting a 2-6 record over two tumultuous campaigns. He appeared in 14 games overall, throwing for 1,675 yards and seven TD passes.

Montreal (1-4) has scored a league-low 69 points this season while allowing a league-high 148 points. What’s more, starter Drew Willy suffered his second injury of the season in Saturday’s 25-8 loss to the Calgary Stampeders, leaving Sherman to go with third-stringer Matt Shiltz for three quarters of the game.

Backup Jeff Mathews, who replaced Willy earlier this season, is also out four-to-six weeks with foot injury. Montreal takes on the Edmonton Eskimos (3-2) on Thursday night.

“We have acquired an exceptional quarterback with undeniable talent,” Montreal GM Kavis Reed said in a statement. “With his great mobility, his athletic abilities and his instinct we believe that he will have a positive impact on our offence.

“Landon Rice and Tony Washington are two skilled players that will considerably solidify our offensive line.”

The six-foot-seven, 318-pound Washington, a nine-year veteran, fills a need for Montreal, which recently released starting tackle Fulton Xavier.

“Thank you to the city of Hamilton for these last 2 amazing years! For the love and support you guys have shown! Crazy biz doesn’t always make sense… keepmoving nextchapter,” Washington tweeted Sunday night.

Westerman, 33, had 19 tackles and three sacks in five games with the Alouettes, who he joined as a free agent this off-season. The six-foot-three, 249-pound Westerman has appeared in 52 career regular-season games with Winnipeg (2015-17) and the Alouettes (2018), registering 137 tackles, 35 sacks and four forced fumbles.

Westerman also played in 58 career NFL games with the New York Jets (2009-11), Arizona Cardinals (2012), Indianapolis Colts (2012), Buffalo Bills (2013) and Pittsburgh Steelers (2013).

Williams, 30, returns for a second stint with Hamilton, The five-foot-eight, 165-pound speedster began his CFL career with the Ticats (2010-12) and was the league’s top rookie before being named its top special-teams performer two years later.

He spent time in the NFL with New Orleans (2013) and Chicago Bears (2013-14) before returning to the CFL with Ottawa (2015-16) and was a member of the Redblacks’ 2016 Grey Cup-winning squad. After spending last season with the B.C. Lions, Williams was dealt to Montreal on Dec. 12, 2017.

He had 15 catches for 283 yards and a TD in four games with the Alouettes.

The optimism surrounding yet another attempt at CFL expansion to Atlantic Canada has been extremely cautious. Besides, many have said they’ve been here before only to have the conversation fall flat.

But since Anthony Leblanc and his business team, Maritime Football, made serious their intention to bring a team to Nova Scotia during Grey Cup week last November, it’s felt different.

Even CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has fanned the football expansion flames, saying “it’s the unfulfilled part of our national dream to have the Maritimes have a football team,” and that it would be a “defining moment” to have a team in the Maritimes.

They’ve all been saying the right things.

Now though, the dream of having a 10th CFL team has reached a pivotal point in the process, one Leblanc says will determine whether or not this will actually happen.

On Tuesday, Halifax regional council approved a motion to begin discussions with Leblanc’s group and the province about the viability of a team and a stadium.

“I think everybody should continue to have the optimism we’ve had all along,” Leblanc told CBC Sports ahead of the vote. “We wouldn’t be getting into a phase of public discussion if we felt we didn’t have good chances of making this happen.”

Leblanc said his team has had a number of conversations with elected officials over the last number of weeks and believes there’s enough support to continue this venture and feels comfortable they’ll be able to move forward.

He said his hope is that administration moves quickly while looking over their proposal to bring a team to Halifax.

“People will say you can’t put deadlines on this, but candidly, we can because we’re the group that’s planning to do this and if we don’t feel we’re moving the ball down the field, we need to look at what our next steps are.”

The deadline Leblanc has suggested is four to six weeks — they want this done by Labour Day. The reason? If they’re able to move forward with the project ahead of Labour Day, they want to start a season-ticket drive for football fans in the region to support a team.

It would be right around this same time — if everything goes as planned — that Leblanc also hopes to have the CFL award Maritime Football a conditional franchise.

But what about the stadium?

Leblanc knows building a stadium and its location are the most important parts of this expansion puzzle. Last week it was reported Maritime Football had narrowed the choice down to two spots. However, that’s since changed.

“That’s speculation,” Leblanc said. “We haven’t publicly confirmed which sites we’re looking at.”

Those two reported sites were Dartmouth Crossing and a property behind the Kent store in Bayers Lake business park. Leblanc says they’ve brought in a new group to help them look more closely at a number of different spots that would be best suited for a multi-purpose development.

“They’ve been working with us for the last several months and I think it’s fair to say we’re somewhat back to the drawing board because they want to understand all the sites.”

Leblanc said they’ve looked at seven locations a stadium could be built.

“What we’re doing over the next two weeks is reaffirming the sites we’ve narrowed down are the right sites. We’re being incredibly thoughtful on this.”

He added the only way they’ll be able to make a stadium situation work is that if it includes the multi-purpose model.

Premier says taxpayers won’t pay for stadium

Last week Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil made it clear taxpayers won’t be on the hook for a CFL stadium in Halifax.

“General revenue is not part of our conversation. I’m not reaching into general revenue to build a football stadium,” he told CBC News.

McNeil said he will wait for the formal ask to discuss how the government might contribute to the stadium, but was clear it wouldn’t come from general revenue.

“If you have another option, you have a new idea of how I can help, feel free to come and ask,” he said. “But don’t come in and expect I’m going to write you a cheque.”

Leblanc says that was never their expectation and interprets the premier’s message this way.

“What he means by that, from what we’ve been told, is they don’t want to see provincial dollars that have already been designated being utilized. We’ve never contemplated that,” Leblanc said.

Leblanc feels new money can be generated from the project and can be put toward building a new stadium.

“We understand as the private sector we have to participate this in a very healthy manner,” Leblanc said.