SCHEPER JOINES ESKS

March 26th, 2015

The Edmonton Eskimo Football Club announces Mike Scheper has joined the coaching staff as the offensive line coach.

Scheper enters his 13th season as a coach and his seventh as an offensive line coach. Having served on both sides of the ball, he spent last season as the defensive line coach with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. In 2009, he began his Canadian Football League career as the defensive line coach for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

His experience on the offensive line includes coaching at St. Francis High School, Glendale Community College and Fresno State. He also served as the cornerbacks coach at College of the Canyons and as the defensive line coach at Portland State.

A native of Pasadena, CA, Scheper played centre on Utah State’s offensive line, graduating in 2002.

RIDERS EXTEND HARRIS

March 20th, 2015

The Saskatchewan Roughriders announced on Friday that international defensive back Macho Harris has signed an extension with the team. As per club policy, details of the contract were not released.

Harris (6’0 – 200) will be entering his fourth season with the Roughriders after originally signing with the team in April 2012. Through his first three seasons, the 29-year-old Virginia Tech product has collected 91 defensive tackles, two quarterback sacks, two tackles for loss and one interception in 28 regular season games.

He has also registered eight defensive tackles in two playoff games.

MCKENZIE RETIRES A RIDER

March 18th, 2015

The Saskatchewan Roughriders announced today that international defensive back Chris McKenzie has signed a one-day contract with the team and will subsequently retire as a Roughrider.

McKenzie spent his entire four year CFL career with the Green and White after originally joining the team as a free agent in 2009. The Arizona State product played 57 regular season games with the Riders where he collected 164 defensive tackles and four interceptions.

He also added four career playoff games and played in the 2009 and 2010 Grey Cup games.

Originally from New York, McKenzie and his wife Whitney make Regina their home where he currently works as a shop foreman at A&B Oilfield.

CFL NAMES ORRIDGE 13TH COMMISSIONER

March 17th, 2015

TORONTO (CP) – The league that blazed the trail for black quarterbacks in pro football now has its first black commissioner.

Longtime sports executive Jeffrey Orridge will take over the CFL’s top job as Commissioner next month. The hiring was announced at a downtown Toronto hotel. He succeeds Mark Cohon, who stepped down in January after eight years on the job.

Orridge leaves his position as executive director of sports and general manager of Olympics at CBC to take the CFL helm, becoming the first black commissioner among North America’s top five pro sports organizations – the CFL, NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball.

“I’m fully cognizant of that and fully embrace it,” Orridge said Tuesday after being introduced at The Royal York Hotel. “I’m very proud of where I’ve come from, my background, my heritage … it’s a remarkable thing that we’ve come this far but it’s really been on the shoulders of everybody else who’s come before me.

“I don’t think myself as a black sports executive, I don’t consider myself the black commissioner. I consider myself the 13th commissioner of the CFL with an obligation and responsibility to carry on and build on my 12 predecessors and all their work.”

Growing up, the 54-year-old New York native fondly remembers his father praising the CFL for allowing Warren Moon to play quarterback when no NFL team would. Moon starred with the Edmonton Eskimos from 1978 to ’83 before heading south and earning nine Pro Bowl nominations over 17 seasons with Houston, Minnesota, Seattle and Kansas City.

“My father and I when I was growing up were watching a CFL game and he said to me, ‘This is why I love Canada, Jeffrey,”’ Orridge said. “I didn’t quite understand and he pointed to Warren Moon and said, ‘If you’re qualified, if you’re capable, if you deserve it you will get an opportunity in Canada and Canada is truly the land of opportunity.’

“That’s why the CFL has always held a special place in my heart. It represented to me what Canada was all about. It was about opportunity and access and fairness.”

Orridge and his family have lived in Canada since 2007. He’s about to become a Canadian citizen.

The Harvard Law School graduate, who has attended the last three Grey Cups, assumes his new post April 29. Terms of his deal weren’t released.

He’ll take over a stable league with a new lucrative television deal and collective bargaining agreement with its players in place through 2018. But questions still remain about the Toronto Argonauts, who’ve yet to secure a new home with Rogers Centre lease expiring after the ’17 season. Owner David Braley and Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment continue to talk about the Argos playing at BMO Field.

“This city is vitally important to the health of the league, it is a priority,” said Orridge. “Obviously it’s been discussed for some time and discussions are ongoing but certainly that’s going to be one of the lynchpins, I think, in insuring that this league continues to grow and prosper.”

Orridge also faces the challenge of making the league game more relevant to young people.

“We need to move the needle, we need to reach out to that next generation,” said CFL board chairman Jim Lawson, who headed up the commissioner search committee. “Leadership, media, growing revenue, these are all things that hit right in Jeffrey’s sweet spot.

“We’re in a great place today and we’re going to be in a better place as a result of Jeffrey’s tenure”

As part of his role at CBC, Orridge oversaw rights acquisitions, including the Olympics and the upcoming Pan Am Games. He also structured the multi-year sub-licensing agreement with Rogers for Hockey Night in Canada. Prior to CBC, Orridge was chief operating officer at the Right To Play charity. He’s also worked at Mattel Inc., Reebok and USA Basketball.

“Mark Cohon did a great job for the league,” said Calgary Stampeders president Gordon Norrie. “From what I hear from Jeff, he’s going to be the guy that takes us to the next level.

“He’s very well educated. He’s got a lot of sports experience.”

Orridge said he understands it’s a competitive business and that being “more innovative” will be crucial.

“I think because of my background in sports business, marketing, brand-building, licensing, merchandising, contract negotiations … I think we’re really poised for some very, very exciting things,” he said.

First on his priority list will be connecting with CFL fans, something that made the approachable Cohon popular among the league’s supporters.

“I’m going to make it one of my goals in the first 90 days of my tenure to visit every stadium, every partner, every environment where the CFL is,” Orridge said. “I’d say within the first nine weeks I’ll certainly be in nine different cities.”

O’DAY’S TURN

March 11th, 2015

Saskatchewan Roughriders Assistant GM Jeremy O’Day fielded reporters’ questions on Wednesday regarding the team’s interest in free agent running back Kory Sheets and the status of QB Darian Durant. Here’s what he said:

ON THEIR INTEREST IN SHEETS

JO: That’s a pretty big question. There’s a lot of moving parts to answer that question. One, we’re talking about a guy that’s not healthy enough to play football yet. Two, what’s his current situation? Is he planning on going through the process of seeing if there’s NFL interest, which we’ve been told by him that he’s going to go through the process of checking out his options in the NFL? Then we’ll go from there. There’s a lot of questions to be answered regarding Kory. We’re under the impression that he’s starting running but that’s as far as we know about that. Does he want to come back? Does he fit into our salary cap? Those are all questions that we need to have answered.

HOW LONG BEFORE HE’S READY TO PLAY?

JO: I think in most cases achilles injuries are around 9-11 months. Somewhere around there. Obviously he’s a player that’s come off one on his other foot so he’s gone through the process before. I’m sure he’s well aware of the process and the timing that it takes. The timing of it, if you look at it from a medical standpoint, and I’m not a doctor, he probably is going to be ready to play for the season.

WHAT ABOUT HIS OFF-SEASON LEGAL ISSUES?

JO: It’s definitely a factor. You always want to do your homework on those situations. Another question we’ll have to have answered is if there’s any immigration concerns. Is he even allowed to come back into the country? Those are some of the things we need to have answered before we get down to decision time of whether he’ll come back to Saskatchewan or the CFL.

ARE THOSE THE ISSUES COREY CHAMBLIN WAS ALLUDING TO?

JO: I think that’s fair to say. That came up after he signed with the Raiders, obviously. We went through his first arrest when he was with us. The second one happened when he was no longer with our team. Any time you see that happen, sure it’s a concern. Any organization would look at that. We’ll have to have a conversation with him and figure out what happened.

WERE THERE OTHER ISSUES WITH HIM DURING HIS TIME HERE?

JO: No, I think it’s been blown up a little bit in the media about character issues but I think his issues are in the legal part, that are concerning to us. As far as in the locker room, we didn’t have any problem with Kory in the locker room. He was a good teammate from all standpoints and was very motivated when he was here.

THE RIDERS HAD SAID HE’S DOWN TO HIS LAST STRIKE…

JO: That’s definitely something that was said and those conversations haven’t taken place. As far as we’re concerned, Kory just became a free agent on Tuesday. So those conversations haven’t taken place between all of us in the same room where we’ve sat down and gone through all the moving parts because there’s a lot of moving parts. It’s not as clearcut as he’s available and he wants to come back. There’s a lot of questions that need to be answered before we make a decision.

ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH YOUR RUNNING BACKS?

JO: I think Anthony Allen often gets overlooked. You look at Anthony last year, he was second in the league in rushing and he missed a couple games because he had some fumbles. He’s a very good running back and we’re comfortable with him. Steven Miller’s a guy we didn’t get to see too much of but we feel he’s a pretty dynamic running back. And Jerome Messam is a guy that played well for us too last year. I think we’re in pretty good position there. We’ll look to try to get better at every position and we’re trying to be the best team possible.

WILL DURANT PARTICIPATE IN THE FLORIDA CAMP?

JO: He will throw at minicamp. I can’t tell you exactly how many throws. It won’t be like a pitch count in baseball or anything like that. But he’ll be there. How many passes he throws or how many practices he participates in will be up to Corey Chamblin and him but we fully anticipate, and Darian made it very clear, that he wants to throw in camp. He doesn’t just want to come down and just observe and go through the meetings and stuff. It’s good for all of us and it’s good for him to see where he’s at.

HOW CLOSELY WILL YOU BE WATCHING HIM?

JO: Normally when you have a QB of his calibre on a practice day you’re just sort of watching because he’s out there but when he’s coming off an injury, sure you’re going to be anxious to see how he throws. It’ll be nice for us to see him.

STAMPS SIGN SHOMARI

March 10th, 2015

Calgary Stampeders head coach and general manager John Hufnagel is pleased to announce that free-agent national player Shomari Williams has signed a contract with the club. As per team policy, terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Williams, a veteran of five seasons with Saskatchewan (2010-12 and 2014) and Hamilton (2013), has played both defensive end and linebacker during his CFL career in addition to being a special-teams standout.

The Toronto native played all 18 regular-season contests for Saskatchewan in 2014 and established a personal best with 17 special-teams tackles, which was the second-highest total on the team.

“Shomari has been a very good special-teams player during his career and his versatility on defence will also be a valuable asset for us,” said Hufnagel.

Williams was selected first overall by the Roughriders in the 2010 draft and played three seasons before signing with the Tiger-Cats in 2013. He was traded back to Saskatchewan in 2014. In 78 career games, he had 89 tackles, including three tackles for loss, 50 special-teams tackles, five sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one interception and one pass knockdown.

“I’m happy to be joining a winning organization and look forward to trying to help the Stampeders to win another Grey Cup,” said Williams.

CHAMBLIN ON SHEETS

March 9th, 2015

Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Corey Chamblin appeared on 620 CKRM’s SportsCage Monday afternoon talking about the pending free agency of Oakland Raiders running back Kory Sheets. We all know Sheets spent two great seasons in Saskatchewan in 2012 and 2013, and was named the MVP of the 2013 Grey Cup rushing for a championship game record 197 yards. Sheets Tweeted last week that he doesn’t expect to be on Oakland’s roster when NFL Free Agency hits on Tuesday, March 10. Here’s the exact transcript of Chamblin’s comments from Monday:

RP: Are you interested in bringing Kory Sheets back?

CC: Ooo! Being just the head coach, with Brendan and J.O. making those decisions, that’s so hard for me to say.

RP: C’mon! You think I was just born last night?

CC: Haha. It’s so hard for me to say! No, you know what? Kory was a good player for us. I joked about his name earlier today and it’s funny you guys are talking about him. That’s a situation where, honestly, I don’t have any info in terms of where he is with his injury and different things like that, or how far out he is.

Like anything else, it’s tough to get a buy back from an injury. He’s done a lot of good things for us in the past and of course I’m sure that we’d have to look into that. But as he exited there were some things ‘character-wise’ that didn’t expose themselves or show when he was here. So there’s some things we’ll have to look at.

I think we’d have to look at him as a brand new player coming back in and do our homework, like everyone else in the league will, and just see where it stands.

RP: So it’s not a black or white, yes or no, issue? It’s a definite gray maybe is kind of what you’re telling us?

CC: Ya it’s a ‘gray maybe’ right now and I can honestly say I haven’t talked to Brendan and those guys about it. I guess, because he’s still on someone else’s team. Who knows how that goes? Maybe somebody in the NFL wants to take another shot on him, rehab him, and see if can he do something? That’s a longshot but as far as for us, we haven’t sat down enough to say he’s in our plans and let’s get him back tomorrow. Like I say, after injury you don’t know exactly what you’re getting.

YAY OR NAY TO SHEETS?

March 6th, 2015

The Twitter account Raider Nation which dedicates itself to coverage of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders reported on Friday that the team will release running back Kory Sheets prior to Tuesday’s free agency deadline.

Sheets, who spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons as a running back with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and was the 2013 Grey Cup MVP, even hinted himself on Twitter Friday that his days with the Raiders are done.

So the question becomes: Should the Roughriders sign him for 2015? Please let your feelings known in the comments section…

RP

STAMPS SIGN ERIC TAYLOR

March 6th, 2015

Calgary Stampeders head coach and general manager John Hufnagel is pleased to announce the signing of free-agent international defensive lineman Eric Taylor. As per team policy, terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Taylor is a seven-year Canadian Football League veteran who spent the past four seasons with the BC Lions and has 90 regular-season games, eight playoff contests as well as the 2011 Grey Cup on his resume. The six-foot-two, 309-lb. defensive tackle was part of a Lions unit that finished first in run defence in 2012 and second in 2011 and 2013. During two of those seasons – 2012 and 2013 – Rich Stubler, now Calgary’s defensive coordinator, was on the BC coaching staff.

The Winchester, Tenn., native entered the CFL as a member of the Edmonton Eskimos in 2008 and also played for the Toronto Argonauts in 2010.

“Eric has been very good defensive tackle in this league over the years and I know he’s looking to show that he still has more to give,” said Hufnagel. “I look forward to seeing him compete at training camp.”

In 90 career games, Taylor has 169 tackles, including 12 tackles for loss, 19 sacks, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and 20 pass knockdowns. He has 16 tackles and two sacks in eight career playoff games.

Prior to coming to the CFL, Taylor spent time with the National Football League’s Pittsburgh Steelers, who drafted him in the seventh round in 2004, Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans. He played one game for the Vikings in 2005. He played college football at Memphis was second-team all-Conference USA during his senior season.

“I’m grateful for the new start,” said Taylor. “I’m joining a very good team and a very good defence and I’m looking forward to getting on that road to try and reach the Grey Cup.”

TUESDAY CFL ROUND-UP

March 3rd, 2015

The Saskatchewan Roughriders announced today international linebackers Philip Steward and Eltoro Freeman have signed with the team. As per club policy, details of the contracts were not released.

Steward (6’1 – 240) joins the Riders after spending four seasons at the University of Houston. The Texas native registered 378 defensive tackles, 40 tackles for loss, 14 quarterback sacks and 10 interceptions in 52 career collegiate games.

The 23-year-old originally signed as an undrafted free agent with the St. Louis Rams where he attended 2014 training camp, seeing action in four preseason games.

Freeman (5’11 – 235) had previously signed as an undrafted free agent with the Baltimore Ravens in May, 2012 after spending three seasons at Auburn. While with the Tigers the Alabama native collected 126 defensive tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and five quarterback sacks in 34 collegiate games. He was a member of the 2011 BCS National Championship team.

The 25-year-old was scouted while attending an NFL regional combine and subsequently invited to attend a recent Roughriders free agent camp.

Calgary Stampeders head coach and general manager John Hufnagel is pleased to announce that international quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell has signed a contract extension that will keep him with the Red and White through the 2018 season.

The 25-year-old Katy, Tex., native boasted a 13-2 record as the Stampeders’ starter in 2014 and led Calgary to a 43-18 win over the Edmonton Eskimos with four touchdown passes in the Western Final before earning Most Valuable Player honours in the Stamps’ Grey Cup victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

“Bo Levi has set the bar very high for himself after his performance last season but with his ability and determination, I believe he has room to grow and improve even more,” said Hufnagel. “The team has made a long-term commitment to Bo Levi and I’m pleased that he has made a long-term commitment to the Stampeders. This signing provides stability for the team at a crucial position.”

Mitchell led the CFL in passer rating in 2014 as he completed 264 of 417 passes for 3,389 yards and 22 touchdowns with just eight interceptions. He also carried the ball 35 times for 232 yards and four touchdowns.

In three seasons with the Stamps, he has completed 64.6 per cent of his passes (370 of 573) for 4,713 yards and 34 touchdowns. Mitchell also has 450 rushing yards and 11 majors.

“I’d like to thank Huff and the organization for making this commitment to me,” said Mitchell. “I feel like I’m just getting started here and so I wanted to make the same commitment to the Stampeders. I thank Dave and Huff so much for everything they’ve done for me since I arrived in Calgary in 2012 and I’m excited for the future as we build on what we accomplished together last year.”

The Montreal Alouettes announced on Tuesday that the club has extended the contract of international defensive back Billy Parker for two more seasons.

Parker (6’00″, 195 lbs.) compiled 42 defensive tackles last season, while intercepting one pass, which he returned for 45 yards. He also led the Alouettes and was tied for first in the CFL with nine pass knockdowns. He added five defensive tackles in the team’s two playoff games last November.

“Billy was our most consistent performer last year in the secondary,” said Alouettes General Manager, Jim Popp. “His extension is not only important as a skilled player on the field, but more importantly his leadership on the field, in the locker room and humanitarian efforts off the field.”

In his 105 CFL games, all with the Alouettes, the Mechanicsville, VA native amassed 283 defensive tackles, ten interceptions all while recovering two fumbles. The former member of the College of William & Mary Tribe also cumulated 46 career knockdowns. He helped the Alouettes win the Grey Cup in 2009 and 2010, picking off a pass in both wins. He was also named a 2013 CFL East Division All-Star.