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Is it Time to Introduce a Targeting Rule

Published: Wednesday, Jun 19th 2019, 11:06am

By: Stephen Safinuk (@Safimod)

After a plethora of headshots to close out the CFL season last year, the league office tried to tell us they were concerned about player safety. They added a referee to watch for headshots. They increased the penalty from 15 yards to 25 yards. Many saw these changes as a step in the right direction, and perhaps a sign of potential change.

And then week one of the CFL season happened. Without digging to deeply into things, we saw 3 blatant headshots, and there was no doubt more of them. Only one of them was flagged, and reports came out that the league managed to bungle that one up as well by letting Simoni Lawrence finish the game.

The 3 hits involved were from Simoni Lawrence (on Zach Collaros and William Powell) and Cory Greenwood (on Mossis Madu).

To me, the league complicated things by adding multiple “grades” of headshots. As it stands now, there is a 15-yard penalty, a 25-yard penalty, and a 25-yard penalty with a headshot. Now, referees and the command center must determine intent on the spot, assuming the call the penalty at all.

To me, the solution is simple. Adopt the NCAA’s targeting rules. Any headshot, regardless of intent, leads to instant ejection. It also takes the pressure off of the command center and referees, by removing intent from the discussion. When we spoke to Commissioner Ambrosie during the “Randy’s Road Trip”, we asked him whether the CFL has considered this rule, and at that point, they have not. His response was roster size. The CFL currently has a gameday roster of 45 players. Ejecting players from the game would immediately affect that quality of play on the field. 

You know what else affects the quality of play? Teams being forced to play down a player because they took a headshot and are out for the game (or longer, in some cases). Knowing your team will be forced to play down a man if they make that contact with the head will help alleviate hits far faster than a 15-25-yard penalty. As it stands right now, a 25-yard penalty to knock your opponent’s starting quarterback/running back out for the night seems like a small price to pay.



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