Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ricky Williams and the CFL

Ok, before I begin, I would like to open a little parenthesis. Some of my most faithful readers have showed great frustration over the fact that I didn't cover the World Cup finale. To them I say this: I'm sorry but I didn't really care for that game, and I wasn't about to write on something I don't care about. Oh, and I didn't see the game either. And I'm pissed Italy won, so it's all for the best anyway.

I will get to Ricky Williams and the CFL in a moment, but first, since I was on the subject of the World Cup, I would like to congratulate Huy Nguyen, a.k.a Padahuy, a.k.a Veillotron's Protege, on winning the WC pool. Actually, he didn't just win it, he killed us all. Congrats, old friend! And may your ass be fully lubrified when you insert that bloody trophy in it!

Now, for those who have been living under a rock for the last few months, Ricky Williams, after being suspended from the NFL for a year, signed a contract to play with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL this year. After missing training camp, Williams had a rough pre-season, carrying only 15 times for 53 yards (no TD, 1 fumble). He did, however, have a very good opening game, in which he rushed for 96 yards on 18 carries (5.3 yds/carry), and while he didn't score, he did come up with a 39-yarder at a crucial point in the game. Williams would later go on to score his first CFL touhdown in the 3rd game of the season in a loss against the B.C. Lions. But to this date, the Argos are 1-3, and Williams has shown only modest numbers (53 carries, 214 yds, 1 TD), good only for fifth in the league in rushing.

Seeing Williams struggle a little bit in the CFL got me to think about how the league might not be as bad as we sometimes perceive it. When you think about it, there are a few CFL greats that had very productive NFL careers (think Warren Moon, Jeff Garcia and, of course, Doug Flutie). And NFL players who tought they could come in and dominate have fallen flat on their faces (Lawrence Phillips, Onterrio Smith, Andre Ware, only to name a few). On the other hand, Robert Edwards rushed for over 1,000 yds for the Patriots before he blew out his knee. When he tried to come back, he made the Miami roster before eventually getting cut. Yet, his style has translated really well to the CFL and now he starts for the Montreal Alouettes. The jury is still out on Ricky Williams, but so far, the ex-NFL rushing leader has certainly not exceeded any expectation.

The fact is, there is no doubt that the best football talent in the world can be found in the NFL. No one can deny that. And anybody who thinks the CFL is not a second-rate league is lying to themselves. But where the CFL deserves a lot of credit that it perhaps doesn't get enough of is in the fact that it gives an environment for other great players to show what they can do, an environment that the NFL does not necessarily provide. The bigger field, fewer downs and larger endzones all give smaller, quicker players more of a chance. In the NFL, size has become so important. Generally speaking, bigger receivers are better because they can get to the jump balls, because they give a bigger target to the quaterback. Everything is so tight and happens so fast in the NFL, bigger backs usually have more success because they can break more tackles. And because offensive players have gotten bigger, so have defensive players as well. But in the CFL, smaller, quicker players have the room they need to operate, to create freely. When no one in the NFL wanted to give Flutie another chance because he was too small, the CFL gave offered him an environment where his size would be offset by his ability to run and take advantage of the open field.

As for Ricky Williams, whatever happens to him this year will matter little as far as next season. Williams will be back in the NFL, and he will be good. But what his first few games this year have proven is that in the CFL, while the level of play might be a bit lower, even an ex-NFL rushing leader in the prime of his career can come in and struggle. It is simply a different game.

Dwarf out


At 6:47 PM, Blogger Veillotron said...

Good blog, good blog....
(I couldn't let a blog go unanswered...)
Probably nobody will ever read these ligns, but at least it will show "1 comment" on the front page. And that is what counts.
I didn't know that Ricky Williams was so shit in the CFL...
It's good to hear the news...


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