The CFL and CFLPA have announced that the league is moving to a 21-week schedule. Teams will still be playing an 18 game schedule but now it will be spread over 21 weeks instead of 20. This means teams will have three bye weeks each instead of the two they currently have in a season. The schedule changes will come in to place for the 2018 season. We do not yet know how this will play into the remodelled schedule for each team but cfl.ca states that, “preliminary modelling suggests the number of short weeks (teams playing on less than six days of rest) could be cut by two-thirds.”
Further to the schedule alterations the league will also be eliminating shoulder pads from all practices after training camp. Whilst the schedule changes necessarily begin from next season, the shoulder pad ban takes immediate effect. Teams could previously hold a total of 17 padded practices following training camp. By comparison, NFL clubs can have 11 padded practices over the first 11 weeks of the season, a maximum of one per week. After that, clubs can have three more padded practices for a total of 14 for the year.
These moves were announced on the latest live CFL Twitter show #CFLThisWeek, with CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie, along with Brian Ramsay, executive-director of the Canadian Football League Players Association, and Jeff Keeping, president of the CFLPA making it clear this was a collaborative initiative, announcing the changes which they say will promote player safety.
Make no mistake though this isn’t a financial or a marketing push. As an ex O lineman Ambrosie has some understanding of where players are coming from and this is first and foremost about safety. Earlier this year, the REDBLACKS had a run of three games in 11 days between July 14 and 24, with byes in two of the final three weeks of the schedule. This is designed to reduce those kinds of stresses.
South of the Canadian border the current NFL/NFLPA collective bargaining agreement mandated the off-season be reduced by five weeks; the number of total padded practices during the season reduced to 14; and training camp two-a-days eliminated. Since then there have been some NFL coaches saying they believe the deterioration of offensive line play is related to the these changes. It will be interesting to see if this increased safety focus draws similar complaints from the CFL coaching ranks.