Veteran Matt Nichols resumes practising with Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Finally, some good news regarding a CFL starting quarterback.

Matt Nichols resumed practising Monday with Winnipeg three days after being forced to leave the Blue Bombers’ 29-14 road win over the Ottawa Redblacks. Nichols left in the third quarter with his team leading 22-4 after being hit when he decided against sliding to end an 18-yard run.

Nichols entered concussion protocol and didn’t return. Backup Chris Streveler, who had a rushing touchdown and passing score with Nichols still in the game, finished 6-of-8 passing for 42 yards with a TD and interception while also rushing for two touchdowns.

A good sign was Nichols telling reporters after the game he felt fine. Nichols was 16-of-20 passing for 262 yards and a TD and is expected to start Friday night when Winnipeg (3-0) hosts the Toronto Argonauts (0-3).

Four teams entered action last week without their No. 1 quarterback.

The Calgary Stampeders (2-1) didn’t miss a beat Saturday without starter Bo Levi Mitchell. Sophomore Nick Arbuckle was 19-of-22 passing for 262 yards and two TDs in his first CFL start as the defending Grey Cup champions beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders 37-10 at Mosaic Stadium.

Cody Fajardo, making his third start in place of the injured Zach Collaros, was just nine-of-16 passing for 89 yards and two interceptions. Fajardo had 790 passing yards and four TDs in his first two starts for Saskatchewan (1-3).

Vernon Adams Jr., in his second start replacing injured incumbent Antonio Pipkin, finished 14-of-25 passing for 202 yards in Montreal’s 36-29 home victory over Hamilton on Thursday night. William Stanback ran for 203 yards and three TDs for the Alouettes (1-2).

McLeod Bethel-Thompson completed 25-of-33 passes for 303 yards with a TD and interception in Toronto’s 18-17 home loss to B.C. (1-3) on Saturday night. The Argos placed veteran James Franklin on the six-game injured list last week.

—-

ATTENDANCE CONCERNS?: It’s an early-season story that won’t go away.

Through four weeks, only the Roughriders have had a home crowd exceeding 30,000 spectators. On Canada Day, a Mosaic Stadium gathering of 30,121 braved wet conditions and a lengthy weather delay to watch the Riders down Toronto 32-7.

Heading into action this week, the CFL’s average attendance is 23,311 and even that figure isn’t entirely accurate because it’s based on 14 home games. No attendance was provided for Toronto’s home loss Saturday night to B.C.

Given there appeared to be roughly 11,000 fans at the contest, that would’ve dropped the average figure to about 22,490.

Regardless, neither number is flattering, especially considering the CFL kicked of its season July 13, it’s earliest start ever. That came after many member centres expressed concern that fans watching games in November have a dramatically lessened viewing experience.

On Monday, the Edmonton Eskimos introduced a general admission pass for $22. The promotion is for tickets purchased before each game day with the price going to $25 on game day.

The Eskimos will also grant free admission to fans 17 and under from now through to their Labour Day rematch with Calgary on Sept. 7.

—-

ARGOS’ PLIGHT: The future doesn’t exactly look bright for the Argonauts, at 0-3 the CFL’s lone winless team. The Argos’ next three games are on the road against Winnipeg (3-0), Calgary (2-1) and Edmonton (2-1) before returning to BMO Field on Aug. 1 to face the Blue Bombers in what’s hardly an enviable stretch.

But even more frustrating was how Toronto — which was outscored 96-21 in its first two games — lost to the Lions on Saturday night.

B.C.’s winning point came when Sergio Castillo missed a game-ending 42-yard field goal. But as returner James Rainey corralled the ball, he stepped on the back boundary line to give the Lions (1-3) the single.

It was somewhat surprising that Rainey, not punter Zack Medeiros, was in the end zone — which at BMO Field is 18 yards deep, two less than a conventional CFL field. Regardless, Toronto was in a tight spot because even had Castillo’s kick sailed past the endzone, it would’ve counted for a single point.

However, Toronto contributed mightily to the bizarre ending. After rallying to tie the game 17-17, Argos kicker Drew Brown sent the kickoff out of bounds, giving B.C. possession at its 45-yard line with 38 seconds remaining.

Three plays later, B.C. was at Toronto’s 30-yard line before a procedure call moved Castillo’s attempt back five yards.

Brown’s errant kickoff wasn’t Toronto’s only special-teams miscue. He also missed a 33-yard field goal late in the first half then the Argos botched the snap on the convert following Rainey’s 79-yard punt return TD that cut B.C.’s lead to 10-9 in the third quarter.

“That (missed convert) was one point we needed and there was another time we missed three,” Argos head coach Corey Chambin said. ”All those things, if you look at it, we can come out of here with a victory, we’ve just got to get better in some areas with guys getting better.

“They prep the right way but it has to turn into performance … we’re not that strong a team yet to have one or two little instances.”

The Argos released Brown, an American, on Monday and signed Canadian kicker Tyler Crapigna.

—-

BLM SAVINGS: Last week the Stampeders put Mitchell on the six-game injured list, prompting suggestions the move would save the defending Grey Cup champions significantly on their salary cap.

The salaries of injured players don’t count against the cap. So with Mitchell signing a four-year deal reportedly worth $700,000 annually this off-season, the simple match suggested significant cap relief for Calgary.

However, only a player’s base salary is exempt. According to a league source, Mitchell’s base salary this season is $335,000 so if he missed all six games, that would result in a $112,000 cap saving.

Now, that’s still a lot by CFL standards. But it’s less than half the $233,333 that Calgary would’ve saved over the same span had Mitchell been earning his entire $700,000 stipend over the course of the regular season.

—-

LAWRENCE HEARING: Hamilton linebacker Simoni Lawrence is scheduled to meet with an arbitrator Tuesday regarding the suspension the CFL levied against him last month.

The league suspended Lawrence for two games after he hit Collaros in the head during Hamilton’s season-opening 23-17 home win over Saskatchewan on June 13. Lawrence received a 25-yard roughing-the-passer penalty on the play.

Collaros didn’t return to the game and went on the six-game injured list shortly afterwards. A repentant Lawrence said he didn’t mean to hurt his former teammate. He appealed the suspension and was able to continue playing leading up to the hearing.

The six-foot-one, 231-pound Lawrence, in his eighth CFL season and seventh with Hamilton, has a team-high 20 tackles with two sacks and two interceptions.

The CFL is hopeful the arbitrator can render a decision before Saturday when Hamilton hosts Calgary.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cattle Show set to return to Stettler Jan. 31st and Feb. 1st

“Stettler, historically, has been a very strong cattle community. It was a real hub for the cattle industry.”

Quebec MP Gerard Deltell says non to Tory leadership

OTTAWA — Quebec MP Gerard Deltell says he’s decided not to enter… Continue reading

Studies question assumptions on industrial damage to Wood Buffalo park

New research suggests Canada’s largest national park is not drying out from… Continue reading

Fashion Fridays: Look your best this year

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Your community calendar

Jan. 22 Downtown House Senior Center (5414 43 St.) in Red Deer… Continue reading

SpaceX launches, destroys rocket in astronaut escape test

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX completed the last big test of its… Continue reading

Canada’s Jeff Smith wins way back to PDC pro darts tour via qualifying school

WIGAN, England — Canadian Jeff Smith has won his way back to… Continue reading

Skate Canada to wait on final decision for world championship team

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Ice dancers Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier headline the… Continue reading

Canadian golfer Lee finishes in fifth place at Singapore Open, Kuchar wins

SINGAPORE — Canadian golfer Richard T. Lee shot 1-over 71 on Sunday… Continue reading

Armed Forces being mobilized to help Eastern Newfoundland dig out

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The federal government is mobilizing the Armed Forces… Continue reading

Couple together for nearly 65 years die on the same day

ARNOLD, Mo. — A couple who had been together for nearly 65… Continue reading

Canadian airlines feel the pressure of flight-shaming and the ‘Greta effect’

MONTREAL — Swedish may not be the lingua franca of the aviation… Continue reading

Most Read