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CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon will be in Regina for the Canada Day season kickoff between the Roughriders and the Alouettes. Although July 1 marks the start of the 2010 season, Cohon has been plenty busy in the weeks leading up to that date.
“There’s been a number of different things,” Cohon said last week. “I was in Winnipeg a few weeks ago for the ground-breaking of the new stadium, I was in Edmonton for the Grey Cup ticket launch and the game’s already soldout, I was in Hamilton last week meeting with city council about the new stadium and the next day I was at Argos training camp. The best part was seeing guys back to playing football. It’s keeping me busy I’ll tell you that.”
With stadium expansion and/or new stadium talk in almost every CFL market, it’s clear the league is experiencing a resurgence. Cohon agrees.
“It’s interesting. I think I played some small part in it but I know a lot of people played large parts in it,” reflected the Commissioner. “Primarily I think first and foremost we have great community-owned teams and great owners. That is very important. Secondly there’s a resurgence in pride in Canada and we are benefitting from that. And third, it’s a great product! The play on the field is so much fun and people are rallying around that.
“There’s a lot of different things that are happening. Our ‘This Is Our League’ campaign really resonated with people and we’re investing back into the game. We’re improving the game like the Command Centre and the QB headsets between the coaches and quarterbacks so all those things improve the game.”
If there’s a blemish it’s in the league’s largest market, Toronto, where the Argonauts have won a league-worst seven games over the past two seasons.
“There’s a confidence level coming out of (new coach) Jim Barker,” Cohon reported. “I think adding Jim and new owner David Braley has given the people of Toronto some hope. That’s the first step. Jim is working hard with the franchise to rally the troops. One of the reasons the 100th Grey Cup is going to Toronto, and the first Grey Cup was there in 1909 by the way, we’re trying to help the southern Ontario franchises. It will be a celebration in Toronto but it should be a celebration for all of Canada.
“I was in Vancouver for the Olympics and what I saw was it wasn’t just Vancouver’s Games, it was Canada’s Games. It’ll be a focus of building Toronto, but we want to include the whole country.”
LUMSDEN STILL ON THE SIDELINES
With training camps over and the new season just days away, Jesse Lumsden is still looking for a place to play.
The bruising tailback spent almost the entire season last year sidelined by a shoulder injury suffered in Week 1. However he recovered sufficiently to performer in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics with Canada’s four man bobsled team.
The former Hec Crighton winner and first round pick has declared himself fit to play, but his injury history seems to have scared CFL teams off. He says though, he has spoken to “a couple” of teams about signing.
“I understand my situation coming into this season,” Lumsden admitted. “I know I’m not going to be ‘the guy’. That’s just part of the business. I need to come back returning kicks and then get the ball handed to me and thrown to me in certain situations if the offense wants me in their schemes. Then I need to get back to doing what I know I can do. It’s about gaining trust, earning trust and confidence from a team.”
Lumsden has garnered a six figure salary in each of his stops in Hamilton and Edmonton but the Burlington product knows that won’t be the case this time around.
“I can be upfront and say that I know any contract I sign will be incentive-based. Until I can prove that I can be a durable running back, that’s what it’s going to be. I’m not in a position to turn anything down, that’s just the way it is.”
So who signs him?
NAYLOR NAILS IT
After a winter of hibernation, CFL Insider David Naylor from TSN and the Globe and Mail will be front and centre once the season kicks off. We asked him for a quick breakdown of the league as training camps wrap up.
“You’ve got teams with holes to fill like every year,” Naylor reported. “Saskatchewan does, Calgary does. There aren’t many in Hamilton or Montreal.
“The most intriguing thing is right here in Toronto. You’ve got a new coach in Jim Barker who’s come in and cleared the deck. This team was awful last year but if you look at the way Barker did it, he’s got an entirely new staff and not one of his quarterbacks has thrown a live pass in a CFL game.
“It looks like they’ll go with Cleo Lemon who has a lot of NFL experience but none in Canada. He’s 31 years old and the history of the guys who come up here at that age isn’t very good. And you can understand why; most guys come at 22 or 23, they learn the game and they’re groomed and they learn. Darian Durant is a great example. He didn’t show up and they handed him the ball and expected him to play. They’re asking a lot of Cleo Lemon.
“The most intriguing thing is down in Hamilton. Last year Quinton Porter came in as a the starter and Kevin Glenn took it away. This year it’s still a competition but the order is reversed. The guy who starts the second preseason game starts the regular season and that’s what happened with Kevin Glenn this year.”
(Rod Pedersen is the voice of the Riders on 620 CKRM)