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Canadian football: bigger field, fewer downs, more players

Casper's CornerJeff CaspersenGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Wondering exactly what the heck this Canadian Football League thing that Glenwood Springs High School alum Rich Stubler coaches in? Well, allow me to answer that to the best of my ability.The CFL is actually older than the National Football League as we know it, getting its start in 1958. Its games are played on a much bigger field, and teams take to that bigger gridiron with 12 players versus the NFL’s 11.A CFL field spans 110 yards, with two 50-yard lines and a midfield stripe known as the centreline, marked with a “C” instead of a number. End zones are 20 yards deep and the goal posts sit at the front of the end zone rather than at the back of it like we’re accustomed to in the American game. A CFL field is 65 yards wide whereas an NFL field measures a width of 5312 yards.”It’s a huge field,” said Stubler, defensive coordinator of the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts. “The U.S. field is like a postage stamp.”The differences don’t end there.

CFL teams must gain the 10 yards needed for a first down in three downs versus four downs in the NFL, which intensifies the action and leads to more passing.”They throw the football virtually every down,” Stubler noted. “It’s hard to run the ball with the field being so wide. You’ll see teams throw the football at the 1-yard line. You can throw it 20 yards (the depth of the end zone).”If you just watch one game, you’ll forget about the game down there. It’s fun to watch.”Touchdowns and extra points work the same way in both circuits, but Canadian two-point conversions are taken from the 5-yard line instead of the 2.As in the NFL, missed field goals can be returned by the opposing team for a TD in the CFL, an option made more possible by the goal post’s placement. If a defending team can’t or decides not to return a missed field goal out of the end zone, a single point is rewarded to the kicking team. Those are a few of the on-field differences. Building a team in Canada is also vastly different than in the United States.The CFL runs with a microscopic $4.05 million salary cap, while the NFL has a cap of roughly $109 million. Many CFL players played college ball in the states, and many are former NFL players.Toronto Argonauts linebacker Chuck Winters is an example of your typical CFL player. He played his college ball at the University of Michigan and wore a number of different hats before finding a home up north.”It was another opportunity to play ball,” he said. “It gave me a new lease on life. I left football and played minor-league baseball, did a clothing line and some other things and then came back to play arena ball before Stu brought me up here.”Canada loves its football. After hockey, of course. CFL teams are based in eight of the nation’s biggest cities – Toronto (Ontario), Montreal (Quebec), Regina (Saskatchewan), Edmonton (Alberta), Calgary (Alberta), Vancouver (British Columbia), Winnipeg (Manitoba) and Hamilton (Ontario). There is talk of future expansion into cities like Ottawa (Ontario) and Halifax (Nova Scotia).”You know it’s a hockey world up here. Saskatchewan probably has the most rabid fans,” Stubler noted. “They’re the only game in town. Here (in Toronto), we’ve got the Raptors and Leafs and everything else.”Contact Jeff Caspersen: 384-9123jcaspersen@postindependent.com


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