CFL Player Safety Under Microscope

cfl player safety
HAMILTON, ON - NOVEMBER 11: Simoni Lawrence #21 of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during the Eastern Semi-Final game against the BC Lions at Tim Hortons Field on November 11, 2018 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Hamilton defeated BC 48-8. (Photo by John E. Sokolowski/Getty Images)

Oh boy, here we go again. With the conclusion of the CFL’s first week of the season, player safety is already under the microscope.

The play in question came early in the first quarter in Thursday night’s CFL season opener. Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker Simoni Lawrence delivered a cheap shot to the head of Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Zach Collaros on the opening drive of the contest. As a result, Collaros exited the game and did not return.

Here is the hit;

Yikes – certainly not a good look from the veteran defender. The officials agreed. The play was originally called a 15-yard penalty on the field, however, with a new rule change in the off-season, it was upgraded to a 25-yard penalty after official Andre Proulx consulted with the CFL command centre. Since the hit, there has been discussion around the league that an ejection should have been included in the punishment. However, officials didn’t eject Lawrence on Thursday night and he was allowed to finish the game.

Simoni Lawrence Apologizes For Hit

After the game on Thursday, Lawrence addressed the hit with TSN reporter Matthew Scianitti.

“It wasn’t anything personal about Zach. It’s hard to stop when you’re running full speed. I love Zach to death. I feel really bad about it and it wasn’t intentional. Prayers to him and his family.”

“I saw him break the pocket and I was running my fastest. And me knowing Zach, how he’s a competitor, I thought he was going to try to do something, juke me or something, but he slid the last second and I wasn’t able to jump over him because I was already going in for a tackle. And I feel bad about it because I know how hard he worked to get back into the CFL and play at a high level.”

Watch the full video here

While the apology appears to be genuine, there is no place for a hit like this in the CFL. Rules were put in place in the off-season to further deter players from delivering headshots to defenceless players. Judging by this hit, it would appear the message didn’t sink into everyone in the league.

CFL Must Send Clear Message

Simoni Lawrence had a hearing with the league on Saturday and the CFL is expected to issue a ruling by Monday at the latest. The league has a massive opportunity to deliver a clear and stern message to the players in this league, especially this early into the season.

Is a 25-yard penalty enough of a deterrent to stop some players from making this kind of hit? Maybe. But it didn’t stop this player on this play on Thursday night. Perhaps lengthy suspensions and large fines to both the player and the team would be more of a deterrent in these situations. Whatever the case, more must be done to protect the players of the CFL. Show that CFL player safety matters.

No player in any league should have to make the decision between whether to play a game that they love or preserving their life long health.

The Last Word

The CFL has often said that player safety is of utmost importance. There is no doubt that both the league and the CFL players association feel this way. But now is the time to prove it.

Both the CFL and the CFLPA must use this opportunity to prove that this message isn’t just lip-service. They have an opportunity to use this situation as an example to not only its teams and players but to other sports leagues as well.

It is time for the CFL to step up as a leader and do what is right for all of their players. Plays like these cannot be deemed as acceptable anymore. There are real people and families at the end of these hits that are enormously impacted.

CFL player safety is important. It’s time for the CFL to make a statement and it must be done now.

Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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