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Monday, February 13, 2017

THE MONDAY MORNING GOALIE FOR CANADATOARIZONA.COM

BACK AT IT

1 - SCOTTSDALE, AZ: When I mentioned last month that the CFL was significantly lacking buzz in the media this off-season, this isn't exactly what I had in mind.

Last week's report that the Saskatchewan Roughriders worked out free agent bad boy NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel was the biggest thing to hit pro football since, well, Super Bowl 51.

But is it the type of notoriety the CFL should want?  Not necessarily.  When the news hit on Thursday courtesy 3DownNation.com's Justin Dunk, the whole football world got knocked on its ear and the Riders were front page news across the continent.

Regina Rams quarterback Noah Picton even got in on the fun, photoshopping a photo of Manziel's head on a Roughrider quarterback's body.  If nothing else, the U of R's Business School is doing a great job of instructing graphic design.

However the serious news reports of broken CFL rules and the subsequent denials didn't make the CFL look very good.

There's a lot of misinformation out there - and I'm guilty of some of it - and we'll try to sort out as much as we can in today's column.

2 - As crazy as Thursday's Manziel news was, Friday (and every day since) has been eerily quiet on the matter.  I expected a thorough review to be conducted by the Riders the day after the report surfaced however I was told team President Craig Reynolds was in Toronto on CFL business.  If there was any internal inquiry, it would have had to have been conducted by phone, I'm guessing.

Of course as we all know by now, Chris Jones and Johnny Manziel have both denied any workout took place and I'm told Jones even personally assured the Ticats as much.  Hamilton owns Manziel's negotiation list rights and such a workout would be a violation of CFL rules.

However Justin Dunk and 3DownNation.com Editor-In-Chief Drew Edwards both told me on Thursday that they stand by their story 100%.

Which brings me to ...

3 - CFL Communications Director Paulo Senra said Thursday that the League was conducting an investigation and at that point, because of the Riders' denial, "it appears the report is false".

That was a bit of a slap-in-the-face to Dunk, however he's clearly a big enough boy to handle it.  In the case of Senra, I'm not sure what else he could say but some of these investigations have been thin at best.

Dunk seemed undaunted by Senra's comment, even going so far as to tell me he's as doing just as fine as this gorgeous Arizona sunshine I'm enjoying.  That was in response to me asking how he was doing whatwith the storm he was embroiled in.  I know how that feels and also know what it's like to get a bad tip from a good source.  However Justin is adamant that this isn't the case here.

Meanwhile on Sunday a 3DownNation.com representative told me that the source of the story was neither from the Roughriders nor the Tiger-Cats, but he obviously wasn't prepared to give up its ultimate origin.

Some unaware commenters wrote into this blog on Friday saying this should be an open-and-shut case;  Dunk simply needs to give up his source and everyone can go on with their business.

Uh, not so fast.  The Supreme Court has habitually protected journalists over the years from giving up confidential sources as recently as the Federal Sponsorship Scandal.

While the Manziel story is nowhere near as serious as that, the basic premise remains the same in the journalism business.

4 - Regarding some of the misinformation out there, I was told on Friday that the original 3DownNation.com story had the date of January 27 listed for the workout but that had since been edited out.  I mentioned that on Friday's SportsCage but it was quickly debunked by Drew Edwards.

I don't know what's true, but now I can't find a story anywhere listing January 27 as the date of the alleged workout.

5 - Furthermore on the misinformation bit, it was pointed out to me on Friday that if you check Johnny Manziel's social media timeline, he was nowhere near Florida during the time in question.  However I quickly rebuffed that.  Who can forget last April when Manziel's Instagram account showed him playing with his dog on the floor of his Cleveland condo when in reality he was in Las Vegas in a disguise, playing Blackjack at Planet Hollywood?  I only remember the date because I was in P.H. that same day.

Next.

No matter where he plays, Johnny Football's going to take a lot of work.  I saw somewhere where he recently announced he'd been sober for 18 days.  As a former active alcoholic, I can tell you that 18 days of sobriety seem significant.  However as a person who's been in Recovery for literally years now, I can tell you 18 days are definitely not significant.

What a magnificent perspective this newfound life has given me!

And working with guys like Johnny Manziel is a very rewarding sideline I'm now involved in.

6 - Rider President Craig Reynolds declined to comment on this situation last week but Tiger-Cats Head Coach & GM Kent Austin discussed the matter rather jovially on TSN 1150 Hamilton Friday morning.

Austin basically said you've got Chris Jones saying one thing and Justin Dunk saying another and the truth generally lies somewhere in the middle.  If the Riders had in fact worked out Manziel - or talked to him at all - it didn't seem to faze Austin one bit.

In fact the Ticats are sitting in the catbird's seat right now because if Manziel does in fact want to play in the CFL in 2017, Hamilton will control where it is.  They can either bring him to camp or trade his rights for a handsome fee.

And perhaps most important out of all of this is that a source told me Sunday that there's a good chance Manziel will try to resume his pro career north of the border this season!

It's anyone's guess as to which CFL team it'll be with, but Manziel would be the most high-profile American to come to the CFL since Rocket Ismail in 1991.  (Yes, even more than Ricky Williams in 2006).

I guarantee every football fan in America would tune in to watch Manziel in the CFL.

7 - Regarding the CFL's investigation into the matter, I suspect this will all blow away if there's no video or photographic proof such a workout took place.  And even if it does exist, Chris Jones and Manziel both better appear in the shot.

8 - Onto other matters ... I chatted with literally hundreds of Rider fans over the course of our two Rider Nation get-togethers in Glendale and Mesa last week.  I couldn't get to many of them on Thursday due to our live SportsCage broadcast but on Friday I ventured from table to table to sit down and get the fans' take on the current state of the team.

These fans hailed from Lebret, Weyburn, Choiceland, Raymore, Saskatoon, Calgary, Kamloops and everywhere in between and their opinion seemed pretty much universal; their patience with Chris Jones is waning.

Of course it started with letting go Weston Dressler, John Chick and Chris Getzlaf, continued through Ratio-Gate and Roster-Gate, and certainly didn't slow down with the trade of Darian Durant to Montreal.  Kevin Glenn and Vince Young?  Don't get them started.  And the Manziel story only added more fuel to their fire.

They mentioned Jones' terseness with the media too, but I think us reporters can handle that.

"How does he treat you?" many of them asked, and I repeated that he treats me as well as I've ever been treated.

That seemed to appease them a tad, and it's as true as anything I've ever written in this space.

But just like all the other Rider Priders back home, after I've listened to their stories and criticisms of Jones, I always ask, "But do you think he'll be successful here and win multiple Grey Cups?"

They all say that yes, indeed they do.

9 - So I'm pretty confident in saying Jones is okay with all the heat he's taking from his own team's fans.  He said from Day 1 that he's not here to win a popularity contest, but rather to win football games.

And don't be the guy who says, "Yeah but they only won five games last year."

This regime is only one year into the rebuild and had a massive mess to clean up.

Every single thing Chris Jones and Co. have done is to gain an edge and improve this football team to the point where they're at the top of the CFL year-after-year.  I don't think that can be denied.

He's doing exactly what he was hired to do.

If he hurts some feelings along the way, he's prepared to do that because that's the way to the Promised Land.  There were a lot of people miffed at Jim Hopson in the early going too, but he was undeterred.

Once this franchise is back on top, I feel its management group believes all will be forgotten and fans will be too busy wiping champagne out of their eyes to remember what they were upset about in the first place.

That's honestly how I see things going.

10 - Lost in the shuffle of last week's news was the fact Roughriders linebackers coach Phillip Lolley has jumped to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as a defensive position coach.  Initially the news release from the Ticats set off alarm bells since Chris Jones and Lolley were joined-at-the-hip however I was informed Lolley made the move for family/personal reasons.  The Riders had no issue with Lolley's decision.

11 - All good things must come to an end and I'll be travelling home from Arizona on Monday.  As you can tell by my social media posts, it's been a dizzying, decadent week here in the Valley of the Sun and it was topped off Saturday night by spending time with Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

The NFL superstar was being honoured at Saturday night's Coyotes-Penguins game and then watched from the Coyotes owners box at Gila River Arena.  He spent more time with Carm Carteri than me but I did ask him about new Rider receiver Duron Carter, whom is a long-time friend.

"Will you vouch for Duron?" I asked Fitzgerald.

"Absolutely," he said with a deadly serious face.

Fitzgerald spent a good deal of time checking out Carm's 2013 Rider Grey Cup ring and mentioned he's good friends with former Rider defensive end R-Kal Truluck!

It was also staggering to have a long conversation in the suite with a neurologist from the Arizona Mayo Clinic who's one of four esteemed doctors investigating the link between football and C-T-E.  He wanted to get the take of someone working in the CFL and see if it aligned with what's being said in the American football community.  Ask me about the discussion some time.  It's too long to get into here.

12 - The next 48-to-72 hours are going to be a blur for Saskatchewan and CFL fans alike.  On Monday, representatives from the CFL will be on hand for a news conference at Mark's Work Wearhouse East to unveil plans for next month's CFL Week in Regina.  The Grey Cup will be in attendance as well, and the CFL's Christina Litz will be on the SportsCage later in the day.

Of course CFL free agency opens on Tuesday and the Roughriders may be prominent.

13 - While the Riders aren't likely to do a cannonball into the free agent pool like last year, they do have money to spend and holes to fill.

There are some offensive line starters up for grabs - both Canadian and American - and I expect the Riders to make a move or two there.

Due to the tragic death of Joe McKnight and the release of Curtis Steele and Matt Walter, the Rider backfield is wide open.

Saskatchewan has some cornerback spots open too and the free agent list is headlined by Ottawa RedBlacks star Abdul Kanneh who's slated to become a free agent this week.

We'll go wall-to-wall on Tuesday's SportsCage with the CFL Free Agent Frenzy.

14 - Speaking of Rider news, it seemed to go under the radar last week whatwith Tuesday's unveiling of the 2017 schedule but Riders' Assistant V.P. of Football Operations Jeremy O'Day announced on the SportsCage that this year's training camp will be held in Saskatoon.

That had Saskatoon Rider fans jumping for joy and it was also welcome news to me too.  I very much enjoy the three weeks in the Bridge City and it's important for the football club to be up there.

I'd heard the rumour that the club wanted to stage training camp in New Mosaic Stadium so as to work out the kinks, but I guess that was a bad tip.

Meanwhile Rider staff moved into the new facility over the weekend and I'm eager to look at the facilities for myself this week!

15 - And lastly, between Friday's Suns NBA game, our Rider parties, being treated wonderfully by the Roughriders staff themselves, and the great hospitality from the boys at Canada To Arizona, this has been our best trip to The Valley yet.

I'll be back on the SportsCage on 620 CKRM on Tuesday and likely won't take another vacation day until next December.

That's just fine by me.  I've made the most of the past two months but it's time to get back where I belong.

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BIRTHDAYS: Happy Birthday today to Regina Pats alum Brad Hornung (48) and CFL legend Angelo Mosca (80)!

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THAT'S ALL! THANKS FOR READING,
RP
@rodpedersen
IG: rodpedersenofficial

SC: Pedersenmedia

31 comments:

Just Say Ying said...

The Argos desperately need to find a way to get attention in Toronto and bums in the seats - the best remedy would be one Johnny Manziel! An who would be a better mentor than one Ricky Ray!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great work Roddy and 'early' Monday Morning Goalie, even when you are away from home!!

Aaron Anderson

Anonymous said...

Fantastic following along as you navigate the football (and other sports). Thank you for all you do. You are a wonderful sportscaster and hope you continue on this road for many years. But I also believe you'd be one of the top play by play men in all the NHL. Las Vegas??

Rod Pedersen said...

You never know. Thank you for the kind words!

Anonymous said...

"But do you think he'll be successful here and win multiple Grey Cups?"

Put me down as a NO!

SWC

Glenn said...

Thanks again for the update Rod. Manziel is a trainwreck. Don't need him here at all. The league would want him in TO to revive fan interest in the Argos if he does come north.

Anonymous said...

This Manziel story is HUGE......only in Regina, because nobody else cares!

Rod Pedersen said...

Nice try. Perhaps you missed the stories on NBC, ESPN and the Washington Post, not to mention RodPedersen.com.

😊
RP

Anonymous said...



I like to compare the "Manziel News" to the Iverson Playoff Rant..... What are we talking about? Negotiation List Players.... Not Free Agency, not Gm meetings, were talking about Negotiation List Players. Not talking about CFL week, not talking about Free agency were, talking about Negotiation List Players. Come on man, Negotiation List Players..... Not a Salary Cap breakdown of each team, we're talking about Negotiation List Players.... not the Schedule, Negotiation List Players, not the CFL draft, Negotiation List Players.... come on man....

Archer

Anonymous said...

It's true, Jones did have a hell of a mess to clean up. Hopson's mess that is. No wonder he cut bait and left in that last year so he wouldn't get saddled with the blame once fit hit the shan.

Anonymous said...

Nice MMG this morning Rod! A couple of quick comments:

There is absolutely no reason for the "whistleblower" to not come forward if he/she doesn't work for the Riders as there would be no legal repercussions, potential job loss or loss of credibility. If anyone connected to the Riders (staff or player) is the source, then it would show that at least someone connected with Riders has some integrity. As well, in this age of people posting videos of everything under the sun, it's incomprehensible that there hasn't been a video of the alleged workout yet. Maybe Dunk is giving Jones enough rope to hang himself with his denials before releasing a video... Wouldn't that be something?

Also, count me as one of the fans who does not believe that Jones is the man who will bring sustained success and multiple Grey Cups to the Riders franchise. He has proven so far that he is at best, a below average GM and his coaching mistakes last year really do deserve an "F" grade. Without a proven QB, it's going to be a monumental task to make the playoffs in the next few seasons in the strong West division.

Additionally, Jones has proven that he'll jump ship for greener pastures at the first opportunity. (ie Calgary->Toronto->Edmonton->Riders). Does anyone really believe that if the Riders have any success that Jones won't bolt for the 1st US college or NFL position that he's offered? Hell, he'd be there already if he was such a great coach.

Anonymous said...

No way Rod, you have two bye weeks in the summertime for once, two nice summer holidays will be great for a change for you and the rest of media.

polkabill504 said...

Thanks for putting a great MMG together as usual...Austin is probably right, that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.Even though I have never met Chris Jones or Justin Dunk, I somehow trust the later more than the former. Hopefully It comes out in the wash.. About the 18 days , It was huge for me way back then.Heck I even was proud after 1 day . If I make it till Labour Day 2017, it will be 30 years and Thanks to Bill and friends for that.Congrats to you on having the guts,humility and foresight to try a different direction in life. See you at the Banjo Bowl..Polkabill from the Peg!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey Rod, excellent article, this is your best in a long time. I posted last week for you to give us some opinions and write some stuff no one else does and you came through. Good job. I read this thing twice it was that good.

Rod Pedersen said...

Thank you my friend.

Anonymous said...

You can put me down for an emphatic NO. I do not think Jones will be successful here and win multiple Grey Cups. I, for one will never forget the gong show that he has created here. I have watched the Riders and the CFL for many years. I have seen some good teams and some bad ones; some dynasties. I have never seen a coach and GM granted such liberties after all his lies, deceit and poor judgement. I have, in fact seen some fired for much less. I realize that Jones does not care what fans think but apparently he doesn't care what players think either. Cappicotti, Lemon, Chambers and Durant, to name just a few, left here without anything good to say about their time here under Jones. Not to mention a few players who chose to retire rather than come here. Is this the way to build a dynasty? I think not. What I find absolutely amazing is how the media and some fans still think that Jones walks on water and will take the Riders to the promised land, even after all the shenanigans of the past fourteen months. Jones does not even have to go public after he screws up. The media and a blindly trusting group of fans will make all the excuses he will ever need. For me, his behaviour, the cheating, the lies, his disdain for both fans and players alike, are completely inexcusable. I cringe everytime I hear the Riders are in the news again, even before I hear the story because the bad news outweighs the good by about ten to one. For the first time in many years , I am not looking forward to the new season. I can see no good coming out of this regime, only more frustration, bad news and excuses. Jones build a dynasty here? what a joke!

Anonymous said...

Bart in Regina Said
#13 Yes I agree Rod. On the 0-line it would great to see Van Roten, Macmillan, and or Dennis and Lavertu from Calgary in Rider green. The devastating injuries to Labatt and Best showed how important the hoggies are in order to win. The QB (whoever that turns out to be) will need another second or two to get that play off for sure. (See Calgary and Ottawa)

On another note to the previous anon, to be fair the current players and coaches seem to really like playing and coaching for Jones. I do not think anyone walks on water and do not subscribe to "blind trust" an any form. I found myself annoyed by Jones many times this last year but on the other side of the coin he works very hard the Rider defense was finally able to stop the opposition in the second half of last year. It was a welcome relief from the horrible 4th quarter automatic touchdowns the opposition tortured me with the previous couple of years. It looked soooooo easy.

Ho Lee Fok said...

I too was surprised that Lolley popped over to the Ti-Cats. Although getting experience with first Jones and then Austin seems a good way to build a resume for a future climb up the coaching hierarchy. The big question now is who will take his place.

Anonymous said...

Multiple Championship? Maybe, maybe not. A much better football team that I actually want to watch? Absolutely. I get that losing DD was heartrtbreaking, but do you think he is the only guy who can throw to our unbelievable receiving core? Get whoever the QB is some protection and a running game, and this team will be lights out on offence. Defence should be an improvement over last year, and special teams coverage needs to continue to get better. People need to remember how bad this team really was before Jones took over. Have we already forgotten about Junior Murtile?

Anonymous said...

Great MMG Thanks.

A Warrior Fan!!

Rafal said...

As always, this is a great Monday morning read Rod, I do have patience for Chris Jones and Company, Rome wasn't build overnight. As for RB position, Argos Brandon Whitaker is available in FA as he put up some decent numbers at running and receiving, he would be a good pick.

Anonymous said...

Hmm more trustworthy source... Justin Dunk who seems to get every CFL scoop right or Jones and the current Rider regime who... well let's just look at last year's track record of infractions

Anonymous said...

Folks, you have to think about this for what it is worth. What is to gain for Jones to sneak around and set up a tryout with Manziel. Nothing.....he should already know what the guy is capable of, heck, there are lots of film footage to look at free of charge. Sneaking around, seeing him throw the ball is a waste of time unless he already had the nod from Austin to do so. If he wanted to get a eye to eye look then I am pretty sure Kent would be okay with it knowing there is a potential trade coming up that he could leverage. Its not as if Jones could just go ahead and sign the guy.

Anonymous said...

I found today's MMG outstanding. Very informative and fun to read. I was hoping it wouldn't end so I didn't have to go back to work after coffee break.
I remember how well Ken Miller did as a head coach. He had his team in the playoffs 1st year. Even with having to bring in Bishop. Then back to back Grey Cup appearances. However when Ken went upstairs as the VP of football operations. As well as GM but having an assistant to whom he titled GM without athourity (Taman) Ken Miller's decision making was a disaster on just about every level. Even his 1st overall pick in the CFL draft. Shomari Williams or the terrible choice of Head Coach; that being Greg Marshall.
No doubt that Chris Jones was a very good DC in Calgary and Toronto and then HC in Edmonton. As a GM and VP of football operations I feel he is about the same as Ken Miller. The decision making has not been sharp and in some cases a real flop. As Chris Jones graded himself and his coaching staff with an "F" for the 2016 season. In order to erase that F. Jones needs an A in 2017. No he dosent need to win the Grey Cup. He just needs the Riders to be competitive and have a winning record for 2017.
Bill Belichuck won 5 games his 1st year. Then went 11 - 5 the next year. If Jones can pull off a wining season he gets another year. If Jones pulls out another F then I feel his time in SK will be over. Along with the man who threw all his eggs into the Jones Basket. Craig Reynolds.
I for one hope Jones gets it turned around and we have a team to be proud of. So far there hasn't been much to be proud of. There has been several forehead slappers.

3RD AND 1
Regina, SK

Anonymous said...

No way Rod, you don't want the Vegas job. You'd buy a place down there and have to end up selling it in five years cause the team will be moving to Quebec City or wherever. This is where you belong and where #RodNation always has your back.

For all the haters who think Rod sucks, if he leaves then Ballsy becomes the Riders PBP guy. Think about that for a second next time you want to give Rod a hard time.

Anonymous said...

The MMG is wayyyyyyy better than that crap you put up here on Friday mornings! #fact

Anonymous said...

Rod, if you want to know what the people think of Jones don't ask them a loaded question that they know what you want them to say so they say it just to be cordial.

If you really want to know then go to The Rider Store and ask for a comparison from December 2015 against December 2016. I'll bet the numbers are down 30% to 40%

TNT

Greg Adleman said...

Tour Rider event is dying out, only 600 fans. Probably why you never showed a group picture.

Rod Pedersen said...

Smart guy: A) I wasn't there for the group photo and B) hundreds of people came for the party and not the game.

Why be so negative?

G-dog said...

Johnny Football Coming to Regina,

Just like Josh Gordon was coming...Cfl Journalism is dead.

Lyle PedersOn said...

The Rider/AZ event is great and a much bigger story than media gives it. To the naysayer ... wristbands are needed to get onto the ice for the picture. We watched Rider fans around the rink ... maybe half never had one. At the end of the game we saw bunches of Rider jerseys leaving the rink. Friends we met at the bar are not hockey fans so just come for the pre-game party. AZ fans and workers are totally amazed that you could get so many fans from a Canadian football team come together at an event in AZ USA! And they are right. Thanks for all you do Rod.