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CFL Blitz

CFL Blitz: Which officials throw the most flags?

By Kirk Penton, Winnipeg Sun

Andre Proulx's (above) CFL officiating crews have thrown the least number of flags per game on average this season. (Reuters)

Andre Proulx's (above) CFL officiating crews have thrown the least number of flags per game on average this season. (Reuters)

They've been throwing penalty flags this season like they're going out of style.

But who, exactly, is “they?”

Merely out of curiosity, we thought we'd take a look at which officials are contributing the most to this year's orange crush on CFL fields across the country. Of course there aren't records that indicate which official actually throws a flag, but let's consider this a guilt-by-association statistic. If you're part of the crew, you're contributing to the penalty total.

Al Bradbury is the winner among head referees, as his contests have featured an average of 22.9 penalties per game. That's nearly five infractions more – per game – than the CFL average over the last several seasons. Kim Murphy, who some regard as the league's top game caller, isn't far behind with 22.5 penalties in the matches he has overseen.

The good news is the number of penalties is dropping. There hasn't been a game with more than 25 infractions since late August, and the average is down to 21.6. That's still, however, nearly 20% more than last year.

So consider the accompanying list as a warning that the game you're watching could feature more penalties than usual from these flag-happy officials.

The official who has been involved in the games with the fewest flags is umpire Ritchie Miller, the brother of Bombers president and CEO Wade Miller. Games involving Ritchie Miller as an umpire have featured only 18.6 penalties, which is right around the league average from the past few seasons.

FLAG HAPPY

The CFL officials who have been involved in the games with the most penalties this season:

REFEREES: G Pen. Pen/G

Al Bradbury: 11, 252, 22.9

Kim Murphy: 12, 270, 22.5

Dave Foxcroft: 11, 235, 21.4

Tom Vallesi: 11, 230, 20.9

Andre Proulx: 11, 223, 20.3

OTHER OFFICIALS: G Pen. Pen/G

Cam Schwieder, linesman: 9, 219, 24.3

Parry Steen, umpire: 9, 219, 24.3

Thomas Cesari, line judge: 9, 214, 23.8

Jocelyn Paul, side judge: 10, 236, 23.6

Chris Shapka, line judge: 8, 187, 23.4

Brian Chrupalo, field judge: 10, 234, 23.4

Bryan Taylor, field judge: 11, 255, 23.2

Dave Gatza, back judge: 10, 231, 23.1

Ben Major, umpire: 12, 277, 23.1

OOPS

Speaking of officials, the CFL was left a little red faced on Saturday night in Winnipeg when the Bombers were unable to challenge a completed pass by the Tiger-Cats late in the second quarter since the TSN feed was down.

It turns out the play still could have – and should have – been reviewed.

The first way to review a play is for the command centre in Toronto to review it. That's how it's normally done since they use the TSN feed and its replays.

If that goes down, like it did on Saturday night, it's up to the game observer to do it himself using the feed from the broadcast truck. The only problem on Saturday for game observer Ken Lazaruk is the truck feed was down as well. It was a double whammy.

That's when referee Kim Murphy told the Investors Group Field crowd that the play couldn't be reviewed due to technical difficulties. The boos rained down.

Well, it turns out there was a third option that was forgotten about because it had never been used. Lazaruk was supposed to review the play himself using the in-house cameras at IGF. All he had to do was go next door to the stadium's production room to look at the replays and make a ruling.

“In all my days in the league, we've never had to do that,” CFL vice-president of officiating Glen Johnson told The Blitz on Tuesday. “We've had to use the other on occasion where we get the truck feed, where the broadcast feed has had a little blip or there's some challenge. So we've actually had to use that in the past, and it's been successful.

“But the third protocol, we had never actually used. It had never had to be enacted. So we had some process issues there.”

Johnson said the CFL has inspected or will inspect every stadium this week to make sure all broadcast feeds are in working order, and he is reminding game observers about the third protocol to review plays.

WHO'S HEALTHY?

These are interesting times in the West Division, where teams are scrambling due to injuries at the most important position.

The Lions announced Tuesday that quarterback Travis Lulay will not have surgery on his throwing shoulder and instead will continue to rehabilitate his banged-up throwing shoulder with the hope of returning to the lineup by the end of the season. It's basically the same situation as last year when he separated his shoulder in September but returned for the West Division semifinal.

The situation is similar in Saskatchewan, where quarterback Darian Durant is working diligently to heal his injured throwing elbow so he can get back and help the defending champs in their bid to repeat. The Riders inquired about landing Ottawa's Henry Burris, but talks never took off.

Calgary's Bo Levi Mitchell is about to return from knee and ankle injuries, while Winnipeg's Drew Willy is dealing with a throwing shoulder sprain that forced him to sit out Tuesday's practice.

It looks like the team with the last quarterback standing will be in Vancouver on Nov. 30.

In other words, Edmonton's Mike Reilly should get somebody to start his car and taste his food until then.

LATE HITS

The Lions might be getting Lulay back, but running back Andrew Harris, who is fifth in league rushing, is done for the year after dislocating his ankle against the Stampeders on Saturday night ... It turns out J.C. Sherritt broke the CFL's single-season tackle record in 2012 earlier than originally thought. League statistician Steve Daniel learned last week that Toronto's Calvin Tiggle had 121 tackles in 1994 – not the 129 everyone thought he had. Sherritt produced 130 tackles in 2012 ... Paris Jackson is back in the CFL, inking a deal with the Eskimos on Monday. The Esks needed another Canadian receiver with Shamawd Chambers on the six-game injured list ... The players of the week are Eskimos running back John White (offence), Alouettes middle linebacker Bear Woods (defence), Stampeders returner Jock Sanders (special teams) and Stamps running back Jon Cornish (Canadian).

PENTON’S PREDICTION

A few weeks ago in this space we predicted Stampeders running back Jon Cornish would win the rushing title. That looks like it's in the bag, so let's now go out on a limb and say he captures the MOP award this year as well. He deserves it, even if he plays only half the games. He's a beast.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

“@calstampeders $7 bucks in my pocket when Wally released me. Defining low point, but motivated me to do more. #Grateful #Grind #UncleWally.”

-- Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) attributes getting released from the Stampeders practice roster in the 1990s as a turning point in his life

BY THE NUMBERS

1,611 – yards after the catch for the Argos, which leads the league

27 – consecutive CFL games in which the winning team has committed as many as or fewer turnovers than its opponent

48 – days between home games for the Argonauts, who will return to Rogers Centre Saturday to take on the Esks

1986 – The last year the Roughriders were shut out before Friday's 24-0 loss to the Eskimos

BOSS BLUNDER

The RedBlacks win the award for the second week in a row after frittering away another glorious chance at a victory.

The RedBlacks had not only a great opportunity on the final play of the game to beat the Alouettes on Friday night, but they had somewhere in the neighbourhood of 48 chances in the first half to score a touchdown but couldn`t get it in the end zone and eventually turned it over on downs. OK, so it was actually only six chances inside the 10-yard line, but you get the point.

The RedBlacks ran the ball for zero yards FIVE TIMES IN A ROW when they were in the red zone. At what point do you think maybe you should look to pass?

Then at the end of the game, with the ball at Montreal's seven-yard line, the RedBlacks weren't set, the snap came early and Burris fell on the loose ball to give Ottawa its ninth loss in a row.

It may be an expansion team, but offensive co-ordinator Mike Gibson and head coach Rick Campbell have been around the CFL for a long time. They need to get things in order in the nation's capital tout suite.

THE INSIDERS SAY

CFL coaches and managers give their anonymous thoughts on what they’re talking about behind closed doors:

I'm a hockey buff. Do you remember the Washington Capitals first season? Back in the 70s. Worst expansion team ever. Maybe not after this season. If the RedBlacks go 1-17 or 2-16, they might be the new worst ever. That other expansion team in Ottawa – the Renegades – we gave them a crap deal to start out and those guys won four or five their first year ... Glen Johnson is doing a good job. Our officiating is getting better. No coach is happy to see flags, but most of us are glad his refs are finally calling offensive holding. It had gotten out of control. Now, it's time for them to flag the cheaters in the secondary. We all know the two teams that clutch and grab the most in the back end. One in the west and one in the east. Call it on them. Stop the cheating if you want to see us score more points ... I'd start Seth Doege against the Stampeders. He showed some spark versus Edmonton and you can change it up. Let Sunseri watch and if Doege struggles then Sunseri comes back in with some new insight ... Hamilton has great cover teams. Like their defence, too. But right now they have no vertical passing game. Would not be scared to play them again ... John Hufnagel is the coach of the year so far ... B.C. started the season without any Canadian depth. Lost Steward. Now Harris is done. Their ice is cracking fast ... Not good for us that Edmonton is running the ball. That White is a good back, but the biggest difference in the Eskimos is their offensive line. Number 66 (Matt O'Donnell) and number 67 (D'Anthony Batiste) are a load on the right side. They're so big they block out the Sun. You can't see the little guy (White) coming, then he hits the hole and explodes. He's hell once he gets to the second level ... If I had to choose between Zach Collaros or Drew Willy, I'd take Willy. He throws a better ball and is a better passer in general ... I told my offensive coaches that 13 months from now they (Marcel Desjardins and Rick Campbell) will get fired because they didn't trade Burris. Not going to win with him – this year or next year – and they aren't developing a young guy when they should be. Who has a future and who doesn't? Winnipeg with Willy, Hamilton with Collaros, or Ottawa with Burris? ... Hamilton's new defensive line is above average, but they're nothing special ... That was poor communication by the RedBlacks at the end of their game. They could have huddled or let the refs set the ball or had an injured guy stay down on the field. At that point it's on the players to make a play ... Does Winnipeg make the playoffs? I don't know. But they are going to be tough out here next year. Etcheverry's system is hard to prepare for. He's frustrating to coach against. On offence, Marcel Bellefeuille has done a nice job with his play calling – building Willy's confidence. That's critical with young quarterbacks, to build them up with confidence, and Marcel has. Willy is only going to get better, which isn't good for us, and the Bombers will get stronger with another draft and free agency. Don't even want to think about how tough our division is going to be next year ... I hear the Stampeders are looking for a defensive lineman ... The B.C. situation is interesting. What if Lulay comes back and has a setback? It's a long off-season, and Glenn is a free agent ... The Riders should be concerned about how many rushing yards they allowed on Friday. The teams out west down the stretch will all look to run the ball, so if it becomes a sore spot this could be costly in some must-win games ... Chad Kackert is a dependable running back. He'll help the Argos ... Friday's game between the Bombers and RedBlacks may feature two teams on a combined 13-game losing streak, but Winnipeg prevails. They are the better team talent-wise.

SMOOTH MOVE

Kudos to the Argonauts for adding their strength and conditioning coach to the practice roster.

The East Division looks like it's going to be a dog fight right to the bitter end, and the Boatmen have added a bulldog in running back Chad Kackert. He retired before the season because he could barely run after ankle surgery, but now he's healed and ready to go.

Now, Kackert's ankle healing isn't exactly something the Argos did, but keeping him around as the strength and conditioning coach was a smooth move. It kept him in the fold and familiar with the team. So now he's back, but it'll be like he never left.

Now the Argos will have a home run hitter down the stretch who will be a nice complement to quarterback Ricky Ray.

POWER RANKINGS

1. (1) Calgary

The Red and White, despite the injuries, prevailed in a slugfest with the Lions.

2. (3) Edmonton

The Esks took advantage of a Darian Durant-less Rider squad and cruised.

(4) Hamilton

Zach Collaros has won four of five starts since his return from a concussion.

4. (2) Saskatchewan

Blanked for the first time in 28 years and couldn’t they stop the run against the Esks.

5. (5) Toronto

The return of Chad Kackert will give the Double Blue another weapon.

6. (6) B.C.

Lost the game to the Stamps and lost running back Andrew Harris for the season.

7. (7) Montreal

They were lucky to get out of Ottawa with a win, but their defence stood tall.

8. (8) Winnipeg

That's four losses in a row and only one touchdown in their last two games.

9. (9) Ottawa

Everything that can go against the RedBlacks is going against the RedBlacks.

THE WEEK AHEAD

Friday, 7 p.m. EDT

Winnipeg at Ottawa (+3.5)

The RedBlacks are going to win some day, just not this time. Bombers by 8.

Friday, 10 p.m. EDT

Calgary at Saskatchewan (+3.5)

Once again, the quarterback battle doesn't favour the Riders. Stampeders by 12.

Saturday, 4 p.m. EDT

Edmonton at Toronto (-3.5)

The Boatmen have had a lot of time to prepare for this one. Argos by 3.

Saturday, 7 p.m. EDT

B.C. at Hamilton (-3.5)

The Tabbies are starting to roar at the right time of year. Tiger-Cats by 5.

Last week: 3-1

Overall: 42-15


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