B.C. Lions coach laments elimination of padded practices

The prospect of extended career longevity of every player in the CFL was raised when commissioner Randy Ambrosie and members of the league’s Players Association Wednesday jointly announced the elimination of padded practices.

But there was also something lost for the B.C. Lions assistant with the longest coaching tenure, judging by the look on the face of offensive line assistant Dan Dorazio. It was a look that suggested the game he fell in love with upon joining the coaching profession 45 years ago has gone forever.

It wasn’t hard to detect that the Lions old-school coach, while understanding the importance of player safety, figures the game is turning into a form of flag football.

“Let’s go do that,” Dorazio said sarcastically moments after being told about the joint announcement, which came while the Lions were in the middle of a practice session ahead of Saturday’s road game with the Calgary Stampeders.

“When you don’t practice with pads the game is different. It’s like you’re in a pillow fight. On game day you got to show up and be in the fist fight. It ain’t the same thing. The game fundamentally is going to suffer. We will not have a good product out there fundamentally.”

The immediate elimination of padded practices, in reality, is relatively minor. Teams had previously been restricted to padded workouts one day during the practice week and on short weeks they had already been eliminated by several teams, including the Lions.

But Dorazio is a stickler on technique, though he is not so much of a taskmaster that he will avoid tasks himself. When coach/GM Wally Buono ordered his team to run gassers at the end of practice Wednesday, Dorazio ran with his players, as did several other assistants.

It’s just that with the league and its union restricting padded practices to training camp sessions, there’s no chance to teach anymore. He’s not buying the argument that players’ careers will be extended as a result of the decision either.

“We don’t work them like we used to, and I think the game suffers on every level. Football is not pushing and shoving. It’s getting your pads down, knees bent, shedding and tackling on defence. Don’t get me wrong, player safety is important but we’re stretching this one now,” Dorazio said.

It’s no surprise that the feeling was not mutual among his players.

“It’s the CFLPA taking care of its players. I’ve always believed that if players know what they’re doing you don’t need pads to practice. You can get your hitting done in training camp,” offensive lineman Hunter Steward said.

Defensive lineman Mich’ael Brooks, who is playing through a shoulder issue that the Lions want to protect with padded equipment, said some players could still benefit from pads in practice. He’s not complaining though.

“I look at it like the NBA. It may be less physical but it’s still a great product,” Brooks said.

The league and union also announced that the season would be extended to include a third bye week which will help out some scheduling challenges associated with a nine-team league.

However, if the league season is brought forward, teams could also be impacted in the spring by a potential conflict between the NFL draft and its Canadian college counterpart.

Some observers have suggested the league is taking the unconventional step of making concessions during the life of the current collective agreement to prevent bigger problems when the deal lapses.

Several sources have suggested the players will ask the next deal to provide better medical benefits for those who injuries take longer to heal. The CFLPA has been actively lobbying in two provinces hoping for worker’s compensation benefits that presently are not available to them.

“We want to start the conversations early. I think it was important to get something done before the end of the CBA,” said Lions player representative Rolly Lumbala.

Lumbala agreed when it was suggested teams will find it more difficult to make player evaluations after training camp. Buono wasn’t in favour of the move but sees the upside.

“The story for me in this is the ability of the commissioner (and union) to resolve a small issue. I don’t believe eliminating contact in 10 practices over a year is going to make any difference,” Buono said.

“I’ve never been a proponent of eliminating contact because football is a contact sport. It has to be weathered to become seasoned. My opinion is at this point when you look at the games there have been more injuries in today’s football than there has been in years past.”

It’s not the same game as in years past but Buono has adjusted with the times.

“Football used to be barbaric and a lot more savage,” said Buono.

To one of his top lieutenants, it’s about to become something else.

“It’ll be a farce,” Dorazio said.

LIONS TALES: Buono was exercising caution with Canadian tailback Shaquille Murray-Lawrence, who was involved in a head-on car accident near the club’s training facility in Surrey Sunday. Murray-Lawrence did not suffer any major injuries, according to an eyewitness account, but hasn’t been at practice all week and will be placed on the team’s disabled list… David Foucault, who lost his job at left tackle to start the year and moved to guard, is the expected starter at right tackle this week. Brooks is back on the defensive front, replacing Bryant Turner, after missing last week. B.C. continues to evaluate two candidates to fill the roster vacancy created by the season-ending knee injury to Travis Lulay. CFL veteran Mitchell Gale is expected to be placed on the 46-man roster this weekend. The Lions are also looking at left-hander Quinn Epperly, who had a previous look in Montreal and played collegiately at Princeton…TSN has reported that free agent Alex Bazzie has turned down contract offers from two CFL teams and intends to sign with the Lions, although a third suitor entered the bidding earlier Wednesday.

Lowell Ullrich

Lowell Ullrich

Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.
Lowell Ullrich
Lowell Ullrich
About Lowell Ullrich (179 Articles)
Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.

24 Comments on B.C. Lions coach laments elimination of padded practices

  1. Great article from a coach perspective.

    • Indeed. I wonder how long this will last…..just what we need in addition to amateurish refs…..I predict lots of sloppy tackling in the near future. Does the CFL have a death wish? Do the owners secretly have a high value life insurance policy out on the league they are looking to cash in on?
      Why not just cancel practices all together as the “players know what they are doing?”

  2. I agree 100% with Dorazio…the league is now a farce. is there a correlation between more practices without pads leads to more and more severe injuries then look at the data. 1 practice a week in pads has equated to more injuries. Zero practices with pads will lead to even more and more serious injuries. Ambrosia botched this one up badly. Who’s in charge…G Johnson??

    • The coaches ultimately have control over intensity during practice. The D is not about to light up a QB, running back or receiver as they would during game time. The big boys need to have contact up front to open holes or have effective pass pro. Likewise, the D has a job to do – sometimes it’s going to get intense until the desired outcome is achieved. Cutting back is one thing, shorts and helmets is another.

      Regardless of what our opinions are – the CFLPA is acting on behalf of the players. If they want to drink Starbucks and look at tablets rather than gear up that’s what will happen.

  3. Blackhawk89 // September 13, 2017 at 10:03 pm //

    Dorazio is absolutely right this decision will work it’s way down to the university/junior, highshool, and pop warner levels. No one will know to tackle ,you can’t just show up to a game do it properly. Tackle football will be a thing of the past in 10-15 years I’m afraid.

    • Anything smacking of masculinity at all may be wiped out in 15 years at the rate society is going? Rise of the beta-male!

      • Masculinity won’t be wiped out in 15 years…..
        the difference will be that it will be displayed by women instead of men 😉

        • Hehehe….sad…but likely true….thank goodness I’ve lived in the era of gorgeous women…..who looked like women…..smelled like women….ahhh….the good ole days!

  4. I understand both sides of this issue, and am undecided whether this will be a positive or negative change. My feeling is that most teams have minimal contact at practice once training camp is completed anyway. And, given the incredible amount of injuries seen in the CFL during the last few years, it may be worth a try.

    However, coaches are inherently against any change to the game. I’m sure that past coaches were against the addition of face masks to helmets, blocking on punt returns, or two point converts, all of which were improvements to the game.

    The bigger issue is the schedule. Teams often do not have enough off days between games. Solving that issue will have a greater impact on reducing injuries.

  5. Canada is CFL // September 13, 2017 at 11:52 pm //

    As much as I agree with player safety and well being, this does not sit right. Not learning or practicing how to tackle may lead to more injuries due to inexperience.

    • richinbanff (Rich Wilson) // September 15, 2017 at 12:57 am //

      It’s not tackling that suffers most; it’s blocking. Both pro leagues have been suffering a rapid decline in quality of offensive line play. This is due mostly to the up-tempo(Air Raid) offences run in the NCAA. Eliminating padded practices reduces the opportunities for coaches like Mr. Dorazio to properly teach the fundamentals of line play that are not being taught at the college level any longer. What does poor play from the line mean? More injuries to the quarterbacks. This rule probably will do the opposite of its intention.

  6. You now have 10 on the practice roster, how are you going to find out if they can, Block, tackle, cover. Until you put them in a game.

  7. If Dorazio doesn’t like it, he should quit. The game was slower and the hits not nearly as violent 45 years ago.

  8. antoine lussier // September 14, 2017 at 7:47 am //

    45 years ago western teams played a 2 game total point semi-final that started on a Saturday and the second game was on a Wednesday-the best of 3 final was then played on the Saturday,Wednesday and Saturday if needed—possibly 5 game in 2 weeks—and many players played both ways–offence/defence–maybe that is why the game was slower–what a crazy playoff schedule—the East played a one game sudden death and a 2 game total point series–still the west managed to win many grey cups.

  9. @ Leo Lewis & Antoine Lussier could not agree with you more, no coach likes change, but change is how we move forward. They also played on natural grass and often road the train fo 2 or 3 days to play an opponent plus they still had a job as football didn’t pay very well. I’m old school and don’t like change either. But them times are a changing

  10. Gotta love the pillow fight reference! Gotta love an old school Coach…….classic! Some undertakings are inherently dangerous. We mitigate with equipment and rules to the degree able. To me this is taking it to an absurd level and threatening what is very fundamental to the game…..potentially violent contact….we can not hide from that or falsely tell ourselves that tweaks like this will make it “safer”. Overcoming fear and pain is part of the game…not unlike actual combat in some senses. Do people not acknowledge that? Am I to believe that the receiver going over the middle does or does not feel intimidated or hearing footsteps…..will that be removed from the game also? Should it be? I think not… sets the great ones apart.
    Football is not for the weak of heart….courage (the ability to still perform under duress)…..to me is one of the most appealing aspects of the game?

  11. @ JC, I could make several comments on your posts but would rather say I hope at some time you will mature. I suspect you are somewhat young. Maybe 25-30, single, high school education and struggle to make ends meet

    • richinbanff (Rich Wilson) // September 15, 2017 at 1:01 am //

      If I was a jerk like you, I would say: “You, sir, could do with a bit of maturing.”

    • Ok…hahaha…sure thing….don’t address any of my points of course???
      Football is a violent game…no? At some point you change it so much….it becomes a different game.

      Also if you re gonna troll…..come up with something more original than the Moms basement dreck if you can Sad…..your names seems to describe your mental acuity.

  12. The above was for Sad

  13. I would agree that the game years ago was slower but I would argue that it was not less violent. Perhaps you should ask the players that got hit by Bill Baker the Undertaker, or Ed McQuarters, or Dave Fennel, Dr Death. The big guys in those days were recruited because they were big, mean, tough and knew how to tackle. You could often hear the clash when these men tackled someone. There were no “shoulder tackles” where the tackler gets injured more often then the player getting tackled. Players from those years knew how to hit, knew how to wrap them up and bring them down. These days, too many times, all the tackler does is change directions of the receiver or running back. Good tackling seems to be a lost art.

  14. I guess it was the time of awesome nicknames too! Dr. Death…the Undertaker….priceless

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