CFL

NFL Workouts: Rourke, Scarlett

A notable name from north of the border will begin NFL workouts next week. Nathan Rourke, the standout quarterback of the British Columbia Lions, has multiple visits set up, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link).

The 24-year-old had a highly productive career at Ohio University, where he threw for 7,457 yards and 60 touchdowns in three seasons. He displayed a dual-threat skillset as well, adding 2,634 yards and 49 touchdowns on the ground. That set the stage for his impressive first season as the Lions’ starter in 2022.

Taking on the No. 1 role for his hometown team, Rourke set an all-time CFL record for completion percentage in a season (78.7%) while leading the team to an 8-1 record to begin the year. A foot injury stalled his campaign, limiting him to just 10 regular season contests, though he did return in time for the playoffs. Overall, the 6-2, 210-pounder finished the year with 3,349 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He rushed for 304 yards and another seven touchdowns, leading to Most Outstanding Canadian honors at this week’s league awards ceremony.

Veteran CFL reporter Farhan Lalji notes that Rourke will begin workouts on Nov. 21, and that more than two dozen NFL teams have expressed interest in him. His ongoing recovery to full health will require a follow-up surgery and prevent him for participating in certain drills, however (Twitter links). Rourke will be seeking an opportunity to compete for an NFL backup role during the spring.

While he attempts to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Warren Moon, Joe Theismann and Doug Flutie in making the CFL-to-NFL jump, here is one other workout note from the NFL this week:

  • Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes that veteran linebacker Brennan Scarlett will be visiting the Dolphins for a workout, one which could result in a practice squad deal. The 29-year-old played 13 games for Miami last year, after spending five seasons in Houston. He primarily played on special teams, and originally re-signed with the Dolphins this offseason before being released with an injury settlement in September. Now healthy, he could provide depth in the front seven as Miami enters the second half of the campaign.

Latest On FA OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardif

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif remains a free agent in the NFL, but an important transaction recently took place north of the border which could affect his future. The CFL’s Montreal Alouettes – his hometown team – acquired his rights in that league, per a club announcement

“We are happy to have proceeded with this transaction,” general manager Danny Maciocia said after the Alouettes traded for Duvernay-Tardif’s rights. “Laurent is a football icon in Montreal and Quebec.”

Last month, the 31-year-old made it clear that he would once again shift his focus to medicine this summer, something he did when he opted out of the 2020 campaign to attend to COVID-19 patients. He returned to the Chiefs last season, with whom he made consecutive Super Bowl appearances the two prior seasons he played in. As a pending free agent who had been supplanted as a starter at the right guard spot, though, he was traded to the Jets midseason.

“I’m going to prioritize medicine… and we’ll see in September if there’s a fit,” the former sixth-rounder said when explaining his decision, which did not constitute a retirement announcement. He added, “I’m really comfortable with the risk, and I’m pretty confident there’s going to be an offer on the table in September if I want it. And if I want it I’ll take it.”

A return to New York is unlikely for Duvernay-Tardif, as the Jets added Laken Tomlinson in free agency to pair with Alijah Vera-Tucker as the team’s starting guards. While his NFL suitors could be few and far between at this point in free agency, he would be welcomed back home in the CFL.

“We wish him the best success with his football career moving forward, and are satisfied knowing that if he does play in Canada, he will do so in a city and a stadium that he knows very well,” Maciocia added. “He would also finally be able to wear the letters M.D. on the back of his jersey like he has been wanting to do.”

If Duvernay-Tardif were to wait until September to make a decision, and no satisfactory NFL offers arrive, he could join the Alouettes midway through the CFL campaign, which runs until mid-November.

Extra Points: Newton, Patriots, Williams, Bears, XFL

It was widely known that Patriots quarterback Cam Newton wasn’t his self physically during his last couple years with the Panthers. But he recently revealed just how bad his health situation was. In a video he just posted this past week (that was recorded in September of 2020), Newton said he hadn’t felt good in years, via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com. “Last time I’ve been healthy?” Newton said. “Honest, 2016.”

I threw an interception,” Newton explained, describing the shoulder injury he first suffered in December of 2016. “I tried to go make the tackle, and I tried to push him out, and I extended my arm, and I messed up my AC joint. And ever since then, there’s just been a part of me that’s just been a wounded dog. Like a wounded lion almost. Just, ‘I’m not right.’ I feel good at times, but when I’m running I still feel it. So instead of running them over, I’m going to turn this shoulder and just go down.” Newton went on to say that he had felt like the shoulder finally healed ahead of his 2020 season with the Patriots. Obviously that season didn’t go how anybody around the team hoped for, and it’s curious timing as to why Newton posted this video now. He’s expected to battle it out with rookie Mac Jones for the starting job in training camp.

Here’s more from around the football universe as we wrap up a sleepy Sunday:

  • Damien Williams was a hero in the Chiefs’ Super Bowl LIV win, but he opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 and his mother having cancer. He was then released by Kansas City back in March, and promptly signed with the Bears within 10 days. It sounds like he knew exactly where he wanted to go, as Larry Mayer of the team’s official site passes along. “Sitting out a year and then coming back, I really didn’t want to learn a whole new system,” Williams said. “Coming here and kind of having the same system, same plays, it was easy for me.” Williams was referring to the similarity in Matt Nagy’s offensive scheme to Andy Reid’s. Nagy, of course, is part of the ever-growing Reid coaching tree, and was an assistant under him from 2008 all the way until becoming Chicago’s head coach in 2018. Clearly the familiarity was important to Williams, who turned 29 in April. With David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen returning from an ACL tear, and now Williams, the Bears should have a solid backfield in 2021.
  • We heard this past week that the XFL and CFL would not be pursuing a potential partnership/merger. That doesn’t mean we’ve heard the last of crossover talk. MLSE, the company that owns the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts, was the “catalyst for the XFL discussion,” within the league, sources told Dan Ralph of the Toronto Star. Ralph highlights the Argonauts breaking off and joining the XFL for their spring 2023 season as a possible solution. It’d be interesting to see, and could serve as a potential test-run for the NFL one day playing games in Toronto, something that has long been talked about.

Kendall Wright Signs With CFL’s Toronto Argonauts

Former Titans first-round pick Kendall Wright has signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL, as NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero tweets. Wright, 32 in November, signed his last NFL deal in 2018 when he had a cup of coffee with the Cardinals.

[RELATED: Shane Ray Signs With Toronto Argonauts]

Wright, a 5’10” veteran receiver, does his best work out of the slot. The Titans used a first-round pick on the Baylor standout in 2012 and saw some promising results early on. In his second pro year, Wright tallied 1,079 yards and two touchdowns off of 94 grabs. But, after that, he never topped 1,000 yards in a season – or 800, for that matter. Despite the drop off, he did manage a career-best six touchdowns in 2014.

Wright’s last live NFL action came in 2017 with the Bears, but he’s been pushing for a return ever since. In that season, he was one of the Bears’ very few bright spots on offense as he racked up 59 catches for 614 yards.

In other Argos news, Toronto recently welcomed ex-Broncos first-rounder Shane Ray. Ray’s last regular season game came in 2018. After that, he inked a deal with the Ravens, but did not make their final cut in 2019.

Shane Ray Signs With Toronto Argonauts

Former Broncos first-round pick Shane Ray will resurface in Canada. The CFL’s Toronto Argonauts signed the veteran pass rusher Saturday.

Ray has not played in a regular-season NFL game since his Broncos rookie contract expired in 2018. The Ravens signed Ray after the 2019 draft but ended up releasing him prior to the regular season, leading the Mizzou product to the in-season workout circuit. None of those auditions produced a contract.

The Broncos traded up for Ray in 2015, and he saw action for Denver’s dominant defense that season. Ray and Shaquil Barrett served as rotational rushers for the Broncos’ Super Bowl champion team, and the duo remained key Von Miller sidekicks through the 2018 season.

Ray notched eight sacks and 21 QB hits in 2016, a season in which DeMarcus Ware missed extensive time, and registered 14 sacks in four NFL slates. Barrett, however, has substantially improved his NFL standing since becoming a free agent in 2019. Ray, 27, could not find a similar launching pad but will attempt to do so in Toronto.

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted the CFL to cancel its 2020 season. The league is scheduled to resume play in June.

Minor NFL Transactions: 5/11/20

We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here:

Las Vegas Raiders

  • Waived: LB Derrick Moncrief

The Raiders signed Moncrief, a former CFL all-star, to a reserve/future deal in January. Since then, they’ve added a number of linebackers via free agency and the draft, squeezing the 26-year-old out of the 90-man roster. In March, the Raiders picked up Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski to bolster their LB group. Then, in the third round, they tapped Clemson product Tanner Muse. Moncrief will look to catch on with another NFL club while his former league faces a likely cancellation of the 2020 season.

CFL Likely To Cancel 2020 Season

As of this writing, the NFL is planning to forge ahead with its 2020 season, as scheduled. North of the border, in the CFL, it’s not quite as likely.

[RELATED: NFL Lays Out Plan For Reopening Facilities]

Our best-case scenario for this year is a drastically truncated season,” commissioner Randy Ambrosie told Canada’s House of Commons (via The Associated Press). “And our most likely scenario is no season at all…Ours is a big brand but not a wealthy business. Unlike large U.S.-based leagues, our biggest source of revenue is not TV — it’s ticket sales.”

Ambrosie explained that the government’s measures to protect the public against COVID 19 “have made it impossible” for the CFL to operate. The NFL and professional sports leagues all across North America are faced with similar obstacles, though they’re better equipped to handle them from a financial standpoint. In 2019, Ambrosie says the CFL lost $20MM. The NFL, meanwhile, took in roughly $16 billion in revenue with profits skyrocketing past their operating costs. Much of that money, as Ambrosie said, comes from lucrative TV deals.

With that in mind, the CFL isn’t necessarily a canary in the coal mine for the NFL. Dr. Anthony Fauci says the NFL has to test players early and often in order to play games, but that’s a feasible expense for Roger Goodell & Co., thanks to the TV money.