First & 10 | Bighill, Miles named PA reps

Adam Bighill wants what so many players, owners and fans of the Canadian Football League are now chasing for the storied three-down loop. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers middle linebacker wants to see the league get up off the mat and back operating in 2021, for the business to grow and expand its footprint across this country and for the players and management work together in harmony.

In short, he wants the CFL to thrive, not just survive.

Last weekend Bighill, along with Thomas Miles, were voted as the Bombers representatives for the CFL Players’ Association. Miles has done this before, but this will be Bighill’s first involvement as a CFLPA rep. He had expressed an interest and got the thumbs up in a vote by his teammates.

The CFLPA reps are essentially the eyes and ears for the players and tasked with passing along their wishes and needs to management while disseminating information from discussions at their executive level and in discussions with the league.

“More than ever every decision is magnified and more important – especially after not playing a season,” Bighill said this week in a chat with “This is a significant and historical event for the CFL. There hasn’t been a season not held since World War II.”

The Coronavirus pandemic not only cancelled the 2020 campaign, it has forced the CFL to take a hard look at its business practices. The current collective bargaining agreement remains in place, but the loss of the season has many wondering how that might impact future discussions between the league and the players.

“The business models have to make sense,” said Bighill. “But we don’t really know what that means per se at this moment for what negotiations can or may look like. That’s a discussion that’s been had before we even talk. Before we talk there’s due diligence being done on viable business practices. Once we have an idea, then we can start talking on what, if any, provisions need to be made.

“The discussion has to be how do we make the entire league prosper instead of just a few teams. And, how do we move the league forward as a whole, as opposed to what’s good for one team but might not be good for another team?

“We really need to have unity from the board of governors and the presidents on the team to have a direction that is positive for everybody. It would nice to have some harmony there so that we can create some positive impacts for the league as a whole.

“That’s the only way we move forward and are bigger, brighter and better than ever – by having a league that prospers together.”

Bighill began working as an investment advisor for Wellington-Altus in 2019 and it’s that background which has him interested in how the CFL operates its business. The CFLPA’s current president just so happens to be Solomon Elimimian – his old teammate during their days with the B.C. Lions.

Bighill’s involvement speaks of his passion for the CFL. This league isn’t simply a vehicle for him to work and earn a living before his days after the game. It’s much, much more than that.

“My passion is as high as it gets,” he said. “I love the game of football. I never thought I’d be playing in the CFL as a kid. I didn’t know much about it. But when you get a chance to come to this league and see the talent, see the differences in the game from the NFL you have no choice but to respect it. There are so many great players who are in this league who could play in the NFL but for one reason or another haven’t had the opportunity. There are also a lot of great fans who support this league.

“This league means a lot to me, and I think it can and should grow exponentially with the product we have. The product is so good, if we can continue to market it there’s no reason we can’t keep elevating it.”

More from Bighill and other notes and quotes in the rest of our weekly 1st & 10 column…

1. Commissioner Randy Ambrosie has been an easy target over the last few months, what with the league initially looking at playing a game in a bubble here in Winnipeg before the cancellation of the season after funding from the federal government fell through at the last minute.

“At lot of finger-pointing gets put at a commissioner, just as a lot of finger-pointing gets put at a head coach, at a quarterback. But there are a lot of things going on behind a head coach that might not be his fault,” said Bighill. “Still, they are the figureheads that get the blame.

“Do I think Randy has been doing a good job and working his best? I think he is working his best. Do I think he’s a little bit limited on what he can do? I think so. Do I think he could have made better executive decisions on some of the processes leading up to a potential 2020 season? Yeah, sure. No matter what advice he was given I don’t think he should have gone to the federal government without having player representation or a battle plan.

“And some would say, ‘Who am I to saying anything?’ But that’s why I want to get involved.”

2. One more from Bighill… he wouldn’t, and couldn’t, really get into specifics about future discussions between the CFLPA and the league. He’s just a week into this new gig, after all.

But he does have faith the CFL will find a way to play in 2021.

“We’re seeing a second wave (of COVID-19 outbreaks ) now, instead of in March or April, and I think that allows us to get measures in order,” he said. “And with the positive news coming forth about vaccines it’s providing some light at the end of the tunnel. Combining those two factors allows us to be a bit more optimistic and gives us time to draw up battle plans for what a 2021 season looks like.

“It also give us more time to demonstrate a case for when or if we need government funding or a loan. I wouldn’t hang my hat on that, but that’s there.

“For those reasons I think there’s cause to be optimistic,” he added. “Now, how this all affects everybody from owners, presidents on down to the players… it’s way too early to be seen to what kind of changes and agreements have to be made. Our point has been out there. Overall, the players’ expenses have accounted for 25 percent of revenue and other professional sports leagues are around 50 percent. Overall, we feel the players aren’t the first place they should be pointing at for cuts.”

3. Tip of the hat to Blue Bomber alumnus Obby Khan for his initiative to help support local businesses, If you can help support local business struggling to survive, please do so – especially as we enter into the meat of the holiday season.

For more background, check out this Global/CJOB piece.

4. A leftover note from last week’s excellent chat with Chris Cuthbert…

During the course of our conversation CC spoke about much of a fan he is of Andrew Harris. He’s also a stats nut and was looking ahead – still is – to see how far up the all-time charts the Bombers’ running back can climb before his career is finished.

“I was looking forward to 2020 for him to hit 10,000 yards rushing,” said Cuthbert. “I know with (long-time CFL stats guru) Steve Daniel’s help I was starting to track some of his progress… he became the seventh player to have 14,000 yards from scrimmage. He was tracking to become No. 1 all time which I think would be an amazing feat.

“But he just lost maybe 1,500 yards this year. He needed two years like that and now he’s been delayed a year.”

Harris, for the record, has 9,038 yards rushing in his career and another 5,107 yards receiving. That rushing total ranks him eighth, just behind Joffrey Reynolds in seventh spot (9,213) and Kelvin Anderson (9,340) in sixth.

As Chris indicated, Harris now has 14,145 combined yards (rushing and receiving), which ranks seventh all time – just behind Darren Flutie (14,433), Allen Pitts (14,886), Milt Stegall (15,209), Geroy Simon (16,546), George Reed (18,888) and Mike Pringle (20,255).

5. One more Harris-related note… sort of: the star has been hearing for a couple of seasons now how running backs have short shelf lives. He turns 34 this April but it’s also worth noting how the two best rushing seasons in his career have come in the last two years.

One day – someday – the club will eventually have to think of his potential replacements. Brady Oliveira and Johnny Augustine are the veteran Canadians on the roster and, it looks like they might have another candidate – although if he moved to the backfield it would leave a gaping hole at right tackle.

6. We’ve seen the NFL continue to play on through the pandemic, even as rosters have been ravaged by the virus. The Denver Broncos had to pluck receiver Kendal Hinton from their practice roster to play quarterback last week against New Orleans after Drew Lock, Brett Rypien, Jake Driskel and Blake Bortles were careless in breaking protocols and all out for the game after Driskel tested positive.

It also led to Wednesday afternoon’s game between Pittsbugh and Baltimore in which the Ravens started Robert Girffin III after Lamar Jackson tested positive.

The whole situation has made more teams pay attention to protocols and examine who their emergency quarterbacks would be. The Minnesota Vikings, for example, have designated receive Adam Thielen – although he tested positive last week and missed their win over Carolina.

Should all four of their pivots be ineligible to play, and Thielen still not available, tight end Kyle Rudolph would be next up on the depth chart.

Just for the record, the Bombers’ emergency QB after Zach Collaros and Sean McGuire would likely be receiver Darvin Adams. Consider this: over the last five years Adams has gone 5-for-5 throwing the ball on special plays for the Bombers, for 161 yards with one touchdown.

7. ICYMI, this week’s good read comes from Dan Barnes of Postmedia as he caught up with New York Jets kicker Sergio Castillo.

Castillo, you may recall, played his first CFL game with the Bombers in 2015 – he went 10 of 13 (76.9%) that year – and then moved on to Ottawa a year later after spending time on the practice roster, then Hamilton and B.C. before heading south.

And he spoke glowingly of the CFL in the piece and of how Justin Medlock helped him during their time together here.

“For the nine weeks I was behind him, I got to see what it is to be a pro athlete, how to conduct your practices, what to attack,” Castillo told Barnes. “You don’t just kick to kick. There are all these little things that you work on and I got to see how he conducted himself on and off the field and that was honestly a big lesson for me. As much as I wanted to play, I’m very grateful for the nine weeks I was behind him.”

The two actually first met during their days in Hamilton – before Castillo came to Winnipeg later in the ’15 season.

“We butted heads a little bit,” said Castillo. “I was the new kid on the block, trying to get a job, and we just did not connect. But when he got to Winnipeg, with me behind him, we bonded well, and to this day he’s one of my mentors.”

8. A few months ago each CFL team made public 10 names from their negotiation lists, including the Bombers.

Worth noting here is the strong seasons two NCAA quarterbacks on the Bombers’ neg list are having this year – Notre Dame’s Ian Book and Brock Purdy of Iowa State. In fact, while they aren’t the favourites, both are listed here as Heisman Trophy candidates.

9. A couple of plugs this week… first, to Matias Bueno, who is a Kinesiology/Recreation Management student at the University of Manitoba and an aspiring sports broadcaster who hosts the ‘Huddle Up’ podcast.

His latest episode features the one and only Milt Stegall and is worth a listen.

As well, Red River College Creative Communications student Danny Halmarson will be with us over the next few weeks. Watch for his byline on our Bombers and Valour FC websites.

10. And finally, saw this posted in the last week and the trash-talking between franchises is reason #8,976 why I miss the CFL:

Stay safe, everyone.

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