With the 96th Grey Cup now a distant yet visible memory, the CFL's off-season has been anything but quiet. With the latest signings, player movements, and coaching changes, here is a quick update on the goings-on around the Canadian Football League.
Lions Lock Up Seven Players
On December 12th, the BC Lions locked up seven returning players in defensive lineman Caesar Rayford, defensive back Donald Brown, kicker Sean Whyte along with receivers Rufus Skillern and Greg Hetheringtonfor the 2009 season according tocfl.ca.
In addition, the Lions have agreed to terms with two draft picks—defensive lineman Justin Shaw from the 2008 CFL Draft and linebacker Josh Bean—from the 2007 CFL Draft.
Out of these signings, Skillern saw the most action this past season, recording 19 receptions for 188 yards and a touchdown in nine games.
Stewart, Chiu, and Boulay Re-Up With Als For 2009 Season
Always on the bubble coming into camp, Montreal Alouettes defensive lineman Anwar Stewart as re-upped for another year. His reliable and consistent play throughout the 2008 campaign fell short of his goal of a Grey Cup.
His reasons for re-signing were simple. "A lot of guys decide to just come back, but I'm coming back to win."
Named the CFL's outstanding defensive player in 2004, Stewart had four quarterback sacks, an interception, and five passes knocked down, along with 27 defensive tackles during the 2008 campaign.
Earlier in the season, the Als also locked up centre Bryan Chiu and safety Etienne Boulay for one season both. Chiu, a CFL veteran and an instrumental leader in the Als locker room as well as both Stewart and Boulay are looking at playing their final seasons in football.
Clermont Signs With Saskatchewan Roughriders
After being released from the BC Lions after being in the top six in all-time team yardage, Jason Clermont has found a new home in Regina.
Clermont, a Canadian receiver, demands a large six-figure salary, yet Riders GM Eric Tillman is willing to bring him into the mix to build a strong Canadian nucleus of players for the 2009 season.
"There will always be American GMs and coaches who will overpay Americans at the expense of a strong Canadian nucleus." commented Tillman after his hiring in 2006.
"Good or bad, I'm not one of them."
Clermont joins an already deep and potent receiver core that includes Weston Dressler and DJ Flick, among others.
Mike Kelly Named New Winnipeg Blue Bombers Head Coach
After the sudden, but not totally unexpected, departure of Doug Berry from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Bomber GM Brendan Taman and Bomber President Lyle Bauer made sure they got the man they were aiming for—Mike Kelly.
Kelly, who formerly coached in Winnipeg as the Bombers offensive coordinator from 1992 to 1996, and was on the short list to succeed Cal Murphy, was offered the head coaching job a few years back as well.
As the 27th head coach in team history, Kelly will also double as offensive coordinator.
John Comiskey Re-Ups with Edmonton Eskimos
The Edmonton Eskimos has re-signed offensive lineman John Comiskey to a multi-year deal.
During the 2008 campaign, Comiskey was nominated for the CFL's Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman Award. He started every game during the regular season and two playoff games for the Eskimos.
Comiskey, whose brother Dan also plays for the Edmonton, was ecstatic about his extension and the chance to play with his brother for years to come.