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CFL encouraging vaccinations with new COVID-19 game cancellation policy

The CFL has adopted a COVID-19 game cancellation policy that encourages its players to be vaccinated.

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The CFL is encouraging its players to get vaccinated with the introduction of a COVID-19 game-cancellation policy that could result in forfeitures and a loss of pay.

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“They definitely mean business, because when you read that memo there isn’t a lot of grey area,” Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson said after Tuesday’s practice at Mosaic Stadium. “We shared that with the players and our guys know that it’s for real.

“The CFL isn’t messing around.”

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a prepared statement that the policy is designed to minimize the risk of cancellations due to an outbreak of the coronavirus among teams involved on the football-operations side.

The policy, however, breaks down what is to occur if a game can’t be played due to COVID-19 issues.

If one team is suffering from COVID-19 issues, it will forfeit the game and the opponent will be credited with a 1-0 victory.

If COVID-19 issues extend to both teams, both clubs will forfeit and be assigned a loss.

In each of the aforementioned circumstances, if a team can prove that 85 per cent of its players have been vaccinated at least once, the players will receive their full salary for the cancelled game.

If a team falls below the 85-per-cent threshold, then the entire team won’t be paid.

“This is a way for teams that aren’t there to get there relatively fast,” Dickenson said. “When players start to see that financially they could take a pretty big hit if we’re not at 85 per cent, then you’re going to see a lot of guys getting the shot.”

Quarterback Cody Fajardo, the Roughriders’ marquee player, took that step during the off-season.

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“I got vaccinated because it will help me stay healthy and not miss games,” said Fajardo, who has received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I wanted to put myself in the situation to play all 14 games this season. My wife is a doctor and it also helps having a doctor in the family telling you to get a vaccine. It was no-brainer for me.”

The CFL stated in a media release that 79 per cent of its players had been vaccinated at least once by Friday’s cutdown date.

The league added that three unidentified teams had more than 85 per cent of its players vaccinated. The six other teams have vaccination rates ranging from 67 to 81 per cent.

Dickenson said the Riders aren’t at the 85-per-cent threshold, but are getting close.

“We’re encouraging them to go,” Dickenson said. “Anytime you have the haves and the have-nots, whether it be for money or vaccinations, you risk dividing the room.

“We have tried to be open-minded and understanding of those who for some reason don’t want to get vaccinated. We want them to get vaccinated. The main reason is we want them to be healthy and safe. The vaccination is proven that it helps people avoid going to the hospital because of COVID-19.”

Dickenson, meanwhile, confirmed that Isaac Harker would again be the Riders’ second-string quarterback. He was Fajardo’s backup during the 2019 season. That leaves Paxton Lynch, a first-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos, as the third-string quarterback.

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Teams are required to dress only two quarterbacks this season, compared to three in 2019. It is unlikely that Lynch will be added to the active roster by Friday, when the Roughriders will play their season opener against the visiting B.C. Lions.

That means Lynch could be a healthy scratch, added to the one-game injured list, or placed on the practice roster before the looming lidlifter.

mmccormick@postmedia.com

twitter.com/murraylp

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