May 11, 2009

CFL approves rule changes suggested by fans

The Canadian Football League is running with some rule changes first suggested by its’ fans. The CFL Board of Governors has approved changes to safety touch and field goals, potential third ...

Board of Governors approves changes to safety touch and field goals, potential third challenge, and use of “wildcat” formations

Toronto, Ontario (May 11, 2009) — The Canadian Football League is running with some rule changes first suggested by its’ fans.

Today the CFL Board of Governors approved:
•    Moving back the kickoff following a safety touch, to reduce the number of times a team chooses to take a knee in its own end zone;

•    Giving coaches the green light to use so called “wildcat” formations that would move the quarterback around, instead of requiring him to stand behind or  under centre;

•    Requiring a team that  kicks a successful field goal to then kick off to its’ opponents, increasing the number of kick returns;

•    Awarding a team a third instant replay challenge if its’ first two challenges are successful.

All four ideas were approved in March by the league’s rules committee, and were among those brought forward by CFL fans this past off-season after Commissioner Mark Cohon asked for their input.

“It’s exciting to know that some of our fans will see their ideas in action when our season kicks off on Canada Day, July 1st,” Cohon said today.

“Our Board of Governors values our fans from coast to coast, and was very supportive of including them in our process. That support was evident in their vote today.”

This year marked the first time CFL fans were invited to submit their ideas for rules changes. More than 2,000 submissions were received, most of them detailed and all of them passionate about the game and how it’s played.

Several fans wanted some sort of change made to the safety touch, citing coaches’ tendency to surrender two points in their own end zone to preserve field position, instead of punting the ball away to their opponents, which could set up a kick return or offensive drive with a high chance of scoring.

The Board has approved moving the kickoff following a safety back, from the 35 yard line to the 25 yard line, which could encourage more coaches to kick the ball away rather than take a knee in the end zone.

Other fans called for the introduction of the so-called “wildcat formation,” which would require a change to the CFL rule that required the quarterback to always line up under or behind the centre of the offensive line.

The Board has approved allowing the quarterback to move to other spots in a formation, including at wide receiver, before the ball is snapped.

Fans generally wanted to see more kick returns, citing a return that goes for a touchdown as one of the most exciting plays in Canadian football.
The Board has approved requiring a kick off after every made field goal, instead of giving the receiving the team the option of scrimmaging from their 35-yard-line.
It also approved awarding a team with a third challenge of an official’s call using replay if its’ first two challenges are successful.

CFL training camps open June 7th, with pre-season games scheduled for June 17th and June 23rd. The 2009 regular season kicks off on Canada Day, Wednesday July 1st, with the Toronto Argonauts visiting the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at 7:00 p.m. ET, and the Montreal Alouettes visiting the Calgary Stampeders at 10:00 p.m. ET, in a rematch of the 2008 Grey Cup game. All regular season and playoff games, as well as the Grey Cup, are broadcast on TSN.

February 18, 2009

CFL Invites Canadians to Provide input to Our Rules Committee

Hundreds of proposed rules changes are pouring in from CFL fans across the country. They started arriving within minutes of our league putting out a request to Canadians, asking them to share ...

Our fast-paced, wide-open, three-down game is a great game, and that was never clearer than last season, when scoring was up, games were close, and exciting finishes were the order of the day.

But everything can be improved.

That’s the spirit in which our rules committee gathers each year during CFL Congress.

A collection of team presidents, general managers, coaches and officials, along with a representative of the players’ association, it meets to discuss which rules might be replaced, changed or tweaked slightly to make our game even better.

Hundreds of proposed rules changes are pouring in from CFL fans across the country.

They started arriving within minutes of our league putting out a request today to Canadians, asking them to share their ideas with the CFL’s rules committee.

And they just keep coming in, demonstrating CFL fans’ passion for our league, and knowledge of our game.
Some of your suggestions so far include:

  • Change the safety to dissuade teams from taking a knee in the end zone.
  • Change the scoring rules around the single point on a kick.
  • Change how instant replay works, with some fans wanting more coaches’ challenges and others wanting fewer challenges.
  • Change how teams can score a convert after a touchdown.
  • Don’t change a thing.
  • Change or eliminate the playoff crossover rule.

We’re asking you to provide input to the committee. We want your ideas and suggestions. We can’t promise the committee will accept them all. But we will make sure your ideas are shared with its members.

Simply send your suggestions for rule changes by clicking here  or by emailing — — by Friday, February 27. That will give us time to share them with the committee before it meets as part of CFL Congress, this year in Hamilton on  March 3rd and 4th.

Why are we doing this, for the very first time? Well, when we say This is Our League, we don’t mean it’s ours to run, and yours simply to watch. We mean the CFL truly belongs to all of us who care about it and support it. So we want to tap into your passion, your knowledge and your ideas.

Thanks for your help and hang in there: with Congress around the corner, CFL training camps can’t be that far off.

Mark Cohon
Commissioner of the Canadian Football League

June 28, 2007

New rules take effect with the new season

By Murray McCormick, Regina Leader-Post The Saskatchewan Roughriders will be dealing with more than a new season Friday when they take to field against the Montreal Alouettes. There are also a ...

By Murray McCormick,
Regina Leader-Post

The Saskatchewan Roughriders will be dealing with more than a new season Friday when they take to field against the Montreal Alouettes.

There are also a number of new rules that have been added to the CFL’s rule book for the 2007 season. The rules deal with more protection for players to improving the quality of the on-field product.

The changes will be particularly noticeable on special teams. The rule regarding blocking on kick returns has been clarified.

Blockers are once again allowed to block would-be-tacklers from the side. Last season, they were only allowed to block from the front, which resulted in a reduction of kickoffs returned for touchdowns. Only three kicks were returned for TDs in 2006 compared with 18 returned for majors in 2005. The blocking rule essentially returns to the one that was followed in 2005.

Alex Smith, the Riders special teams coach, knows he has to live with the blocking rule despite some reservations about players’ safety.

“In preseason, there have been a lot more dangerous blocks because of the four-sided approach,” Smith said Wednesday after the Riders completed their final practice before travelling today to Montreal.

“It’s hard when you’re running down the field at full speed and keeping an eye out for guys coming at you from the side. Someone can get earholed and that’s my major concern, but the rule is what it is and we have to deal with it.”

Punters also have to adjust their games while the league attempts to add more excitement to punt returns.

There are now penalties for punts sailing out of bounds between the 20-yard lines. The receiving team has the option of taking possession where the ball goes out of bounds or having a 10-yard penalty applied against the kicking team at the point of the last scrimmage with the down repeated. Balls bouncing out-of-bounds will not be penalized.

The rule forces teams to land punts in the field of play and increases the opportunities for punt returns.

“If I’m aiming my punts and kicking properly, it shouldn’t be a problem,” said Riders punter Jamie Boreham.

“More times than not, you’re not necessarily trying to kick the ball out of bounds between the 20s. Within the 20s, you can still go for the coffin corner. That’s good. They are just trying to get something going because there was a big drop-off last year.”

Some of the coaches instructed punters to kick the ball out-of-bounds to keep the football away from the league’s dangerous returners. The pressure is now on the special teams to keep the returners in check.

“Our guys are pretty fired up because they like going down the field and covering,” Boreham said.

“If I can kick the ball in the right spot, it’s easy for them to cover and they’re going to make the play.”

The league’s quarterbacks picked up some additional protection during the offseason. There is a ban on hits below or at the knees of a quarterback. Players are also banned from leading with their helmets while tackling quarterbacks. Both infractions carry a 15-yard major penalty and an automatic first down.

“It’s good to protect us back there,” said Riders quarterback Kerry Joseph.

“We’re vulnerable and we aren’t worried about protecting ourselves when we’re passing the ball. When you step into a throw, a guy can take your knee out. It’s good to have that rule in place and make a guy a little more cautious about that but we realize there is contact in football. I hope that it doesn’t take away from the game.”

Scott Schultz, the Riders veteran defensive tackle, said the new rules protecting the quarterback won’t force him to change his game. He’s going to keep rushing up the field as hard as he can to reach the quarterback.

“It’s a bunch of mumbo-jumbo that the league has put in place,” said Schultz. “We hear about these rules and we’re supposed to know what they are. But when you’re running full speed you don’t have time to change. You have to do what you do and that’s get to the quarterback.

“When you’re going after the quarterback, the object is to get him down. I’m looking to do that anyway I can and pay for the consequences afterwards.”

Some of the other notable rule changes are banning a snap down into a two- or three-point stance by an offensive lineman to eliminate a tactic to draw the defence offside; penalties for hitting players already on the ground and in a vulnerable position; and, penalties for making horse collar tackles by grabbing an opponent’s shoulder pads.

Kent Austin, the Riders head coach, was a member of the CFL’s rule committee that approved the changes.

“I’m always for protecting the quarterback,” said Austin, a former CFL quarterback. “During the season, there aren’t a lot of hits that are questionable. We’re just trying to police the ones that do happen.”

NOTES: WR Yo Murphy injured a finger on his left hand while attempting a reception on Wednesday. Yet Austin said the veteran may be left off the roster because Murphy may have re-injured a calf injury that has plagued him throughout the preseason … RB Wes Cates, who was acquired from the Calgary Stampeders on the weekend, isn’t expected to play Friday. Austin said Cates wasn’t ready … DB Lance Frazier, who suffered a deep thigh bruise on Monday after a collision with LB Kitwana Jones on Monday, was back on the field Wednesday. A decision on Frazier’s status is to be made before Friday’s kickoff ( 5:30 p.m., TSN).

February 15, 2007

Proposed rule changes aim to liven up kick returns

Buono, others call for more protection for quarterbacks

Buono, others call for more protection for quarterbacks

By Vicki Hall,
Edmonton Journal

MONTREAL – The fine art of the kickoff and punt return remains on the endangered species list in the Canadian Football League.

But the CFL rules committee recommended changes Wednesday to the blocking rules in hopes of reviving the play that brings fans out of their seats more than any other.

The relaxation of the rules must still be approved by the CFL board of governors in April at the annual meeting.

“We want to bring more excitement to the game,” said Edmonton Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia, who sits on the rules committee. “But we want to protect the health and safety of our players. So it’s a fine balance.”

In the eyes of some CFL players and fans, the game sank to new lows of boredom last season thanks to a misguided change to the blocking rules.

The switch came into effect in the 2006 season, forbidding players to block from the back or side on special teams. Only blocks from the front remained legal.

The result? A penalty-flag festival and just two touchdowns on returns last season after 14 the year before.

“The health and welfare of our players and the input of our fans was really taken to heart,” said Michael Copeland, the league’s chief operating officer.

“The focus was really on showcasing the excitement of our game and protecting our most valuable assets, our players.”

Wally Buono, head coach of the B.C. Lions, voted against the rule change last year, and he still feels the league made a mistake by going through with it.

“When you make changes, it confuses a lot of people,” Buono said. “Maybe what happened this year opened eyes for everybody. I understand the importance of player safety. But football, unfortunately, is a game of risk. When you step on the field, there’s a risk.”

Buono would like to see that risk diminished for quarterbacks, and the league is looking at clamping down on hits to the head or below the waist on the men who throw the football.

In Vancouver, the issue is paramount with quarterback Dave Dickenson missing more than a month last season due to post-concussion syndrome.

Dickenson is arguably the best quarterback in the game, but he’s as fragile as the roof at B.C. Place Stadium.

“It’s not just about Dave Dickenson,” Buono said. “It’s about all the quarterbacks. We are a quarterback-driven league. You win a lot of times due to that one individual. That’s why, proportionally, that one guy is paid more than anyone else. I believe we protect kickers a lot more than we protect the quarterback. Hit the quarterback as hard as you can, but make sure you’re not endangering him.”

That being said, Maciocia doesn’t want to see the referees throw a flag any time a defender breathes on a quarterback.

“The last time I checked, this is football,” Maciocia said. “It’s not flag football or touch football. They do tackle out there.

“You want to protect the quarterback. Below the knees, you clearly want to protect him. We want to discourage any head shots where defenders are leaving their feet and leading with their helmet. That’s something we clearly want to discourage. But quarterbacks are still football players out there.”

And this is coming from the man who employs Ricky Ray, the highest-paid pivot in the league.

October 13, 2006

League looks at rule reverse for Dickenson

By Mike Beamish, Vancouver Sun Although he has a reputation for offensive creativity, the record book reverse isn’t an innovation currently in Dave Dickenson’s playbook. Nonetheless, ...

By Mike Beamish,
Vancouver Sun

Although he has a reputation for offensive creativity, the record book reverse isn’t an innovation currently in Dave Dickenson’s playbook.

Nonetheless, CFL officials are hoping to make a rule change that retroactively would grant Dickenson a North American pro football record for passing percentage.

The Lions quarterback completed an astounding 73.98 per cent of his passes in the 2005 season, good enough to eclipse the pro football record of 70.66 set by Cincinnati’s Ken Anderson in the strike-shortened 1982 NFL season. According to CFL criteria, however, Dickenson needed a minimum 360 throws — based on an average of 20 attempts over an 18-game schedule — to qualify his percentage as a record. He fell 18 attempts short because a concussion kept him out of the lineup for four games.

Shawn Coates, director of football operations for the CFL, said a presentation is being made to the league’s rules committee to standardize all passing records with the same minimum requirements. Currently, passing records under different categories vary from a minimum of 250 attempts to 360.

“We want to create a level playing field across all categories. We have some inconsistencies,” says Coates, who adds that passing records must wait to be standardized by the rules committee when it meets at the CFL Congress next February in Montreal.

Meanwhile, the veteran quarterback returned to the practice field Thursday, limiting his participation and working on his own while he seeks to shake the effects of post-concussion syndrome. Dickenson won’t be at Sunday’s game in Calgary.

“They’ve advised me to pull back a little bit,” he said.

Asked if he expects to play again this season, Dickenson said, “As long as I’m symptom-free. But if I’m not symptom-free, I’m not playing. I think I will. I’m not at the point yet where I can even watch film.”

May 23, 2006

CFL announces rule changes for 2006

Three rule changes ratified by Board of Governors
February 22, 2006

New CFL rule recommendations

Three amended/new rules to be recommended by Rules Committee for Board approval

Three amended/new rules to be recommended by Rules Committee for Board approval

Toronto, Ontario – The Canadian Football League (CFL) announced today a summary of the proposed rule changes which were reviewed and agreed upon by the CFL Rules Committee this afternoon during 2006 CFL Congress. The following recommendations will be presented to the CFL Board of Governors for ratification before the end of April.

1. Allowing Head Coach to call Team time outs

Rule 1 Section 7 Article 5 (a) (Page 15)

Reword (a) to read

The team time out may be requested by any player on the field, or the Head Coach, and may be directed to any official on the field

Rationale – very often team time outs are used strategically to stop the clock and have it restart on the next snap. Since the Head Coach determines such strategy, he should be allowed to request the team time out.

2. Hands to the face

Rule 4 Section 3 (NEW) Article 4 (Page 30)

Add Article 4

Neither Team A nor Team B may use hands open or closed to provide leverage against the face mask of an opponent.

Rationale – For player safety, this rule change will prevent both clubs from using leverage on face masks.

3. No yards penalties

Rule 5 Section 4 Article 1 (Page 37)

Reword entire article to read as follows

When on a kick from scrimmage (ball crosses the line of scrimmage), or on an open-field kick, a player who is offside in relation to the kicker:

(a) shall not touch or be touched by the ball

Penalty – in field of play – L 15 from PBT (point ball touched)

– in goal area – L 15, penalty applied at 10 yard line

(b) (1) shall allow five yards to an opponent attempting to gain possession of the kicked ball. The five-yard zone is determined by a circle with a five yard radius, with the centre point being the ball at the instant it is first touched.

Penalty – in field of play – L 15 from PBT

– in goal area – L 15, penalty applied at 10 yard line

(b) (2) if the ball struck the ground before being touched by the receiving team

Penalty – in field of play – L 5 from PBT

– in goal area – L 5, penalty applied at 10 yard line

(b) (3) if a kicking team player is making no attempt to withdrawal from the five yard zone, a 15 yard penalty will apply regardless whether the ball bounced

(c) shall not interfere with a receiving team player attempting to gain possession of the kicked ball, with or without contact

Penalty – L 15 from normal point of application

(d) a player of the kicking team who invades the five-yard zone, and contacts a receiving team player who is attempting to play the ball in an unnecessarily rough manner, will be subject to an additional 15 or 25 yard penalty, regardless of whether the ball had struck the ground.

Rationale – A rewrite of the entire article to simplify and clarify each of the five possible scenarios involved. The intent of the rule is to allow a receiving team player the opportunity to play the ball with the protection of a five-yard zone in which to do so.

When a ball has bounced players routinely and deliberately invade the five-yard zone, believing that the only penalty that will apply is a 5 yard No Yards foul. Players will interfere with a receiver by hovering over the ball or a player attempting to field the ball without contact, interfering with the returner's concentration and inhibiting his opportunity to play the ball, protected in the 5 yard zone.

Players will also invade the five-yard zone and contact a player prior to his touching the ball.

Interference with a kick receiver, with or without contact, should result in a 15 yard penalty.

If a returner is contacted in an unnecessarily rough manner by a player who is inside the zone prior to the touching of the ball, then a double penalty of 15 yards for No Yards; and 15 yards for Unnecessary Roughness or 25 yards for Rough Play; should be applied.

About the Canadian Football League

The Canadian Football League (CFL) operates in nine leading cities across Canada. Building on a strong past toward a stronger future, the CFL celebrates Canada's game with fans across the nation. The 94th Grey Cup will be played in Winnipeg, Manitoba on November 19, 2006.

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