CFL fines, suspends Hamilton’s Will Hill

TORONTO — New CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie suspended and fined defensive back Will Hill of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Tuesday for two separate incidents in last week’s game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Ambrosie, who began his tenure Monday, suspended Hill for one game after the Hamilton player grabbed the jersey of an official in the third quarter. Hill quickly let go but was still ejected from the game, which Saskatchewan won 37-20 in Regina.

“It is a fundamental principle in all of sport: you cannot and must not lay your hands on an official,” Ambrosie said in a statement. “I acknowledge that in this case, the player involved appeared to quickly realize the inappropriateness of his actions, and released the official.

“But that does not erase the fact that the player crossed a line that should never be crossed in sport at any level, and which certainly should be respected in an elite professional league such as the Canadian Football League.”

Ambrosie also fined Hill an unspecified amount for punching a Saskatchewan player on the same play.

“Furthermore, by punching an opponent, this player has not only displayed the opposite of sportsmanship, he has undermined the commitment to player health and safety that must be shared by the league and its players alike,” Ambrosie said. “Just as player safety is critical to our game, so too is the safety of our officials.

“I’m committed to developing a policy in the very near term to improve and codify the safety standards to further protect our officials.”

This isn’t the first time Hill has got into trouble.

During his NFL career with the New York Giants and Baltimore (2012-15), Hill was suspended four times for testing positive for a banned substance. He received a 10-game sentence from the league in March 2016 for violating its substance abuse policy and was subsequently released by the Ravens.

Ambrosie’s suspension and fine were imposed immediately, meaning Hill would miss Hamilton’s home opener Saturday against the B.C. Lions unless he decided to appeal. If Hill chose to do so, he’d be able to continue playing unless the ruling was upheld by an independent arbitrator.

Last season, then commissioner Jeffrey Orridge fined Hamilton coach Kent Austin $10,000 and banished him to the spotter’s booth for one game for making contact with an official. It marked the first time in CFL history that the league had disallowed a coach from being on the field with his team for a game.

Austin made contact with official Tom Cesari when he swung his hand in frustration while protesting a call on the field during a game. Austin said he had apologized to Cesari, but in his ruling Orridge said he couldn’t overlook that Austin actually made contact with the official on the field.

Also last season, then Montreal receiver Duron Carter received a one-game suspension for bumping Ottawa head coach Rick Campbell during a game. Carter appealed the ban but it was later upheld by an arbitrator.

Carter is now with the Riders and have seven catches for 63 yards and a TD versus Hamilton.

The Austin ruling certainly established a precedent for the CFL in the Hill case. And had the league issued a more stringent sentence, it likely would’ve presented Hill with a better chance to successfully appeal it before an arbitrator.

In 2007, B.C. Lions offensive lineman Jason Jiminez received a one-game suspension for delivering an illegal block against defensive lineman Anthony Gargiulo of the Calgary Stampeders that shattered Gargiulo’s leg and forced him to retire at age 23. But the suspension was overturned on appeal due to inconclusive video evidence.

Three years later with Hamilton, Jiminez was fined $2,777 — half a game’s pay and the maximum allowable at the time — for a low hit on B.C. defensive end Brent Johnson during a regular-season game.

It was suggested then that Jimenez wasn’t suspended because the CFL was concerned it would be overturned by an arbitrator upon appeal.

Losing Hill would be yet another blow to Hamilton (0-2), which is already without 1,000-yard receivers Andy Fantuz and Terrence Toliver, both out with knee injuries.

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