The opening of rookie camps were in jeopardy Wednesday until the CFL reached an agreement in principle on the collective bargaining agreement hours before players were to report.
There were lots of smiles at the Alouettes’ training camp Sunday and it wasn’t because the players were being asked to say “cheese” for their photos.
For the second time in a week, there was some uncertainty over whether the players would be there.
“When we heard all the stuff going around yesterday, we weren’t sure anyone would show up, but they were all here for their head shots,” said Charles Rooke, the team’s public relations head honcho.
“All the stuff” had to do with the CFL’s collective bargaining agreement with its players. The opening of rookie camps were in jeopardy Wednesday until the league reached an agreement in principle hours before the camps opened.
It appeared all systems were go for the start of the main camps Sunday, but concerns arose Saturday about the effect of a new rule designed to protect veteran imports might affect Canadian talent. Under the new rule, a team must start at least three imports who have been with the team for three seasons or have four years of CFL experience. There was a fear the new rule might push some Canadians out of starting positions.
A series of fevered negotiations that ran until 11 p.m. Saturday led to an agreement the new rule would go forward. The deal calls 21 of the 44 roster spots to be filled by Canadians and seven of them must be starters on offence or defence.
The Alouettes expect to have 92 bodies on the field at Molson Stadium when the camp opens Monday at 2 p.m. There was some tinkering with the roster Sunday as 13 players were added to the camp roster and 14 others were dropped.
The departing group included 32-year-old wide receiver Ernest Jackson, a seven-year CFL veteran who had spent the past two seasons with the Alouettes after previous stops in Ottawa and B.C.
Jackson appeared in all 18 games last season for Montreal and caught 52 passes for 642 yards and a touchdown. He had 60 catches for 767 yards and six touchdowns in 2017.
The additions include two players who helped Western University win the Vanier Cup in 2017 —quarterback Chris Merchant and Philippe Dion, who hails from Blainville.
Merchant joins Laval Rouge et Or quarterback Hugo Richard at a position dominated by imports. Last season, he threw for 2,094 yards and 17 touchdowns with 127 completions in 174 attempts. He also rushed for 255 yards and three touchdowns.
One wrinkle in the new CBA is the addition of a global player, which is the reason the Als held combines in Europe and Mexico. There’s one Frenchman and three Mexicans in camp and the player who attracted the most attention in the rookie camp is Mexican kicker Enrique Yenny.
If you check out social media, you’ll see Yenny punt the ball 70 yards and kick a 60-yard field goal for his university team in Mexico. He’s the first to point out he was kicking at altitude and he has to get accustomed to the CFL, which is different from the U.S. ball used in Mexico.
He says his first punt in university travelled only 15 yards because he was nervous but he finished the season as the top punter in the league. He also learned to deal with pressure, kicking a game-winning 54-yard field in his first championship game.
Yenny grew up playing soccer, but switched to football while attending high school in Smyrna, Ga., as a 15-year-old. He impressed the football coach with his leg and is hoping to do the same with the Alouettes.