CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie sat down with TSN Football Insider Dave Naylor Wednesday at the CFL Meetings in Mont-Tremblant and touched on a number of pressing topics in an important off-season for the league.
With the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire in May, Ambrosie said negotiations should begin next month.
"We expect some time, probably in February, we'll get a formal notice to bargain from the (Players' Association) and that ball is in their court," Ambrosie said. "We would hope that we'll get down to real discussions at the end of February...that's why this meeting was so important to come together with our coaches, GMs and presidents, to make sure we're all singing off the same song sheet and I'm sure the players are doing similar exercises themselves."
It’s also an opportunity to discuss player safety and any rule changes moving forward, something Ambrosie said has already begun.
"We just finished an entire session on potential rule changes for this upcoming season and (quarterback safety) was one of the topics that was discussed.”
Quarterback safety in particular became a big topic of discussion late in the season when Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterbacks Zach Collaros and Brandon Bridge were both rocked by hits to the head that went unpenalized. That led to a temporary implementation of an eighth on-field official, whose sole responsibility was monitoring hits to the head on QBs.
"I think it's too early to know," Ambrosie said when asked whether an eighth official or technological solution will be used moving forward. "I think the feedback we got today is helpful. We need to sit with the rules committee, which includes the Players' Association as well. And I want to see them have input on this, so I think that question will be better answered once the rules committee gets together.”
Ambrosie also touched on the new football league south of the border, the Alliance of American Football, and the competition it could pose to the CFL.
“We are talking about it, but recognizing that so much of the future rests on us building our own great strategy,” Ambrosie said. “You can spend all your time thinking about what someone else is doing, we're excited about our own plan and spent a lot of time last night talking to our own coaches and GMs about our vision for the Canadian Football League; making sure we're aligned with the goal of building a bigger and stronger league. So be mindful of what someone else is doing, but focus on your own business.”
While the AAF is brand new, the CFL has been losing players to the National Football League for a long time now. But that’s something Ambrosie said he’s always happy to see.
“We've had a long and storied history of our players coming from the NFL and moving back into the NFL," Ambrosie said. “I think it just shows how fundamentally close the talent is between the two leagues. I'm just happy for these young men who do great things for us here. Duke Williams as an example, now he's going to get a chance to play in the NFL. I'm happy for them, obviously. That relies on us finding the next Duke Williams to 'wow' CFL fans, but I'm confident that our coaches, scouts, and GMs will find that next group of talent that will lead.”