Thursday, December 3, 2009

Understanding The Differences Between CFL Canadian Football And The NFL

By Ross Everett

While football in the United States is associated with crisp autumn days and cool nights, in Canada professional football begins in the summer time. While NFL training camps won't open until mid-summer by then the Canadian Football League (CFL) will be well into their regular season schedule.

The CFL is almost as old as the NFL, coming into existence in'30. The league's Grey Cup championship trophy is even older, having been awarded to the best Canadian professional football team since'09. There have been a number of NFL stars who got their start in the CFL including Doug Flutie, Randall Cunningham and Jeff Garcia.

While the CFL plays football at the highest professional level of competition outside of the NFL, there are a few differences in the game:

The most obvious difference is the football itself--the CFL football is longer and fatter than the NFL ball. The CFL still has their goal posts on the goal line, which the NFL moved to the back of the end zone years ago. The field is 10 yards longer and 12 yards wider than the NFL field, and the CFL end zones are 20 yards deep instead of the NFL's 10 yards.

Teams have 12 players on the field at once as opposed to 11 in the NFL. On offense, the extra player is a receiver, on defense a defensive back. And unlike the American game, where teams have 4 downs to move the ball ten yards the CFL has only 3. Maybe the hardest thing to get used to when listening to CFL broadcasts is the frequently references to teams going two and out. There are a few other subtle differences as well"teams only have 1 time out per half, only 20 seconds between plays, and all backfield players can be in motion prior to the snap (as opposed to only one in the NFL).

There are also differences in the scoring of the game. The first time I saw a CFL score tied 1-1 at the end of the first quarter I thought I was hallucinating. A major rule difference between the CFL and NFL is the fact that teams can score a single point, which those clever Canadians call a single. Basically, a team is awarded a single point for a missed field goal or a punt that lands in the end zone.

The rule differences don't end there--CFL teams are required to maintain a certain percentage of Canadian born players on their roster. The idea is that this will protect the unique identity of the game, as well as prevent it from becoming little more than a farm system for the NFL. Currently' of the 40 players on a CFL roster must be Canadian natives.

Many US football fans look at the rules that include more players, a wider field, and fewer downs meant to encourage more passing and expect to see a wide open high scoring style of play similar to Arena Football. That's not really how it works out--most games end up with final score totals in the 40's, but the game itself really isn't much more offensively oriented than its American counterpart. The rules may be different, but as in the NFL you need a solid rushing game and a stout defense to win games and championships.

The requirement of native born players making up 50% of a CFL roster also results in a much more even distribution of talent across the league. Certainly there are good teams and bad teams, but the end result is greater parity than is found in the NFL.

The CFL isn't in a financial position to draw the top level US players away from the NFL or, in most cases, even a NFL practice or developmental squad. While some US players are uniquely suited to the CFL style of play, most of the US players that end up there are of a similar talent level as to that seen in Arena Football.

The bottom line is that despite the rule differences and personal quotas the CFL game is still football and can be enjoyed the same way. Once you understand the unique attributes of the Canadian game youll start to enjoy it almost as much as the NFL.

In the pre-Internet era, it was often difficult for US fans to find information on the CFL. They don't get coverage on ESPN, but they receive extensive attention in the Canadian press. Each CFL city has their own sports media, and the official CFL website also has many resources including previews and statistics.

About the Author:

No comments: