The Canadian Football league is limiting full-contact practices in a big way through the end of 2018. CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie explains the decision

By Peter King
September 18, 2017
In the interest of player safety, the CFL will limit full-contact practices through the end of the 2018 season.
David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Canadian Football League has told its nine franchises that, except for training camp in 2018, full-contact practices will be banned through the end of the 2018 season. Players can wear helmets in practice, but no shoulder pads, and tackling in practice will not be allowed. I talked to the CFL commissioner, former offensive lineman Randy Ambrosie, on Friday about how it came about.

MMQB: How’d you make this happen, especially in-season like this?

Ambrosie: It’s what I can only describe as a magnificent display of partnership between us and the players union. It will give our players more time to recuperate, and stay on the field. There was another part of this, going from [18 games in] 20 weeks to 21 weeks. Because of our nine-team structure, because not all of our teams have access to their facilities at all times, we have had some tight turnarounds on our games. We have now gone to a 21-week schedule, staying at 18 games. It dramatically improves the time players will have to rest and recuperate. One example this year was Ottawa. The Redblacks had three games in 11 days [a Friday-Wednesday-Monday schedule.] That is just way too much football is too tight a time. There is something magnificent and elegant about simplicity. We wanted to do something fairly immediate and avoid the confusion of tackling too many issues at once. It is going to challenge our coaches, who I believe are world-class. It’s going to be different. Coaches begin to wean themselves off padded practices later in the season anyway. We know coaches can go with less, because we’ve seen that in football now anyway. Coaches will adapt. They will find new training techniques.

MMQB: Have you gotten any pushback from football people over the decision?

Ambrosie: I have not had one of those calls at all. We had our [CFL] Hall of Fame inductions last night, and I spoke to a couple of our coaches. They were positive and polite and constructive. I am aware this may have cost me one or two Thanksgiving dinner invitations, but the reaction has been almost entirely positive. It was a quick decision, and some would argue too quick. But when you’re on the doorstep of doing the right thing, quick is good.

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MMQB: How much are you concerned about the future of football, with all the issues of head trauma and CTE that have surfaced?

Ambrosie: Talking about player safety is not just words to me. It means very much. The [future of football] has been on my mind throughout this. The more we do together to make this game safer, it will inspire confidence that the game can be played at the safest level. … What I love about the game is it offers the greatest inclusiveness of any game. You can be a gigantic person, super strong, and you can be a small person, super fast, and then in a locker room all these things come together. We need to fight, literally, for the future of football, and we do that by making it safe. I think the battle for the future of the game is one we will win. We’re teaching safer tackling. It’s gonna take us all pushing it. Change is hard. We all know that. The fraternity of football people, we’ll find our way. I’m honored to be part of it.


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