Think Mike Benevides (left) isn’t happy to have Jovan Olafioye back with the Lions? B.C.’s free agency options were few if the tackle had left for the NFL, but the numbers show that most import players who come to the CFL don’t get where they want to go. (PNG)
Here’s our weekly notebook, an attempt to make a winter weekend without football a little shorter
Jovan Olafioye thought he was just about through reliving the last two winters looking for an NFL job at his Lions presser this week when he was asked the one question any fan would want answered: Name something you saw that was jaw-dropping about the amount of money that is evident in four-down football.
“Oh my gosh, the facilities!” Olafioye said, recalling one or more of the 18 visits he made to NFL training facilities in the last two years. “The size of them are outrageous. There’s all the food you would ever want; cafeterias where you can make anything you want. There’s Gatorade practically everywhere. TVs are everywhere; XBox 360s. You want a pair of shoes? They bring you a catalogue and bring them right to your locker.”
It’s no wonder a mountainous lineman in his mid-20s would find it difficult to turn that dream down, but Olafioye did just that at the onset of CFL free agency last week, saying he’ll not pursue the NFL in the future. Solomon Elimimian came pretty close to making the same statement when he turned up to talk about his new Lions contract this week as well.
The reason both are wise to focus on the CFL is pretty clear by the numbers. With free agency pretty much done, only five players in the league signed contracts in the NFL this winter. And only Toronto OL Armond Armstead, 21, received a reported signing bonus in excess of $20,000. Armstead got a reported $655,000 US from the Patriots. Nobody got even close to that amount among the seven players who signed last year, only two of whom even made it to an 2011 opening day roster.
Want to play in the CFL as an import? Come on up. The wise ones make plans to work hard, get a second contract, and stay.
Better late than never
The day will come when Mike Benevides has a bit less compassion for the Montreal Alouettes, but it was hard for the Lions coach not to feel something this week for the newest CFL hire at his position, Dan Hawkins.
Benevides was asked about the challenges for a coach when trying to get ready for the season when he was hired Feb. 19, as Hawkins was this week in Montreal by Jim Popp. Thinking back to his first three months on the job last year, the obstacles were numerous.
“The advantage is that Jim Popp has been hiring staff and signing players all along, plus they have Anthony Calvillo to basically run the offence,” Benevides said. It was then pointed out that Hawkins, who has been out of football for two seasons spending time as an ESPN college football analyst, has no fewer than 12 coaches or other assistants in Montreal, which if nothing else goes some distance to prove that the CFL has made some strides the last few years. If the Lions have a bigger staff next year, you’ll also know why too.
Around the league
You asked, they’ll deliver. The Lions took some heat last year for their ticket prices, but this week the club responded. Selected season ticket holders were advised in a letter from the club that some end zone sections have been expanded, thus lowering prices in the lower bowl. It’ll also be announced that the top deck of the stadium not visible to television cameras will be closed this season if demand is insufficient. “The configuration is going to look different this year,” club president Dennis Skulsky said. ….
It was mentioned here awhile back that TSN has wrapped up a deal to remain the CFL’s broadcast rightsholder, but no announcement has been forthcoming. Turns out when you are a rightsholder you also get to be a newsholder, meaning an announcement will be on the network’s terms. Latest case in point came Thursday, when TSN was again handed the list of nominees for this year’s Canadian Football Hall of Fame, which amounts to ridiculous timing in February and another miscalculation by the league. Next chance to make a splash perhaps could be at the CFL’s annual Congress next week in Regina. Our .02: Hall of Fame announcements should be made as they are in the NFL, which rolls out the winners in front of national media during Super Bowl. No better time to showcase Canada’s best than Grey Cup week, but the Hamilton-based Hall fails every time. The list of honourees, by the way: Earl Winfield, Dan Ferrone, Miles Gorrell, Brian Fryer, Jake Ireland and the late Don Loney…
With free agency in the past, the names of players signed to provisional CFL contracts with the Lions will start to become prominent. It’ll start undoubtedly as another breathless scoop, and force fans to reach for a football encyclopedia and a roadmap, when in fact the whole process is premature. First up is returner Korey Williams of the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Storm, whose signing by the Lions was announced by the Indoor League team last week. Tim Brown, you’ve been warned. Keep in mind though, there’s still no guarantee Williams or anyone else gets to the main training camp if they don’t dazzle Kelly Bates, Mark Washington and other Lions talent evaluators at the club’s regional tryout camps starting in April. Teams often sign players early so they can make room on their negotiation list…
Well, you asked
Questions to Fifth Quarter
I heard a [Benevides] radio interview today. He stated theoffensive line and getting younger in the secondary are the team’s priorities. Therefore, what is the status/future of Jesse Newman, Jon Hameister-Reis, and Dean Valli? Is this the year Dante Marsh does not make the team? What are the Lions going to do for a Canadian safety if they can’t sign Cauchy Muamba? I’m not sure J.R. LaRose is an upgrade. — Sukh Parmar, Chilliwack
LaRose may not be an upgrade but the Lions would be in as much trouble as if Olafioye had left if the club hadn’t signed him to an extension last year. Also keep this in mind about Muamba, touted by experts east of the Rockies as the most coveted non-import free agent on the market: Winnipeg reportedly paid him north of $100,000 to likely be a backup. Newman’s retirement is imminent; he just needs to sign the needed paperwork. Hameister-Ries will be evaluated early next month at which point he’s expected to sign. Valli (ACL) is reportedly ahead of schedule, but the Lions won’t push him at training camp. Marsh? He’ll make the team, but the Lions are aware he can’t play forever any more than Ryan Phillips or Korey Banks.
I see OL (Dylan) Steenbergen is still available, any Lions interest? Also Brandon Peguese, where r futures, do not see picks in ’13 or ’14 draft — @erniefc.
We’ve received a couple of emails on this one. Peguese, you’ll recall, was the B.C. lineman dealt to Hamilton last year for future considerations when he picked a fight with two coaches. However the Lions are out of luck. Turns out for Peguese to cost the Ticats a draft pick he had to play six games with Hamilton. He played five. Steenbergen, a spare part in Edmonton last year, is reportedly asking for big money and for the time being has priced himself out of the market.
They said it
Tweets too good to ignore
Ex-B.C. DB Tad Kornegay, who never seems to get signed in free agency but always seems to be on a Grey Cup finalist by the end of the year, to another CFL veteran who is again out of work: BREAKING NEWS!: @AvonCobourne I just got word from @CFL I got picked up by the Nova Scotia LobsterCatchers. Where you goin??
Uproar is an update of all things Lions and CFL which appears online only most Fridays during the off-season. Questions? Comments? Write us: Our address: email@example.com