By dan ralfo
He is preparing for training camp on time, but the turbulent state of contract negotiations between the CFL and the CFL Players Association isn’t giving veteran offensive lineman Derek Dennis a warm, fuzzy feeling about the upcoming season.
The two sides are far from over an agreement to resume talks on Wednesday. And time is of the essence as the current contract expires on Saturday, the day the camps are due to open.
“As much as it doesn’t feel like things are moving forward, you have to take it upon yourself to be a pro and be prepared,” Dennis said in a telephone interview. “It doesn’t matter what’s going on… it’s my livelihood, that’s how I put clothes on my kids’ backs and food on the table, so I should approach it with the same mindset no matter what’s going on.” .
“It’s amazing what can be accomplished in 24 hours, so I hope they spend the time before they leave our homes and families to do the right thing.”
On Thursday the CFLPA rejected the league’s proposal, calling for no increase in the $5.35 million wage limit and eliminating the Canadian ratio. It also did not include a union proposal to allow players to negotiate guaranteed contracts and included a return to padded practices.
The CFL issued two statements via social media on Friday, the second outlining its commitment to partnering with players. Earlier, the league tweeted: “Canadian players are the lifeblood of the CFL game, as well as seasoned American players making careers here. It won’t change.”
But the six-foot-three, 345-pound Calgary Stampede isn’t feeling that much love.
“I don’t feel like we are appreciated from the point of view of the league,” he said. “The league recently made a statement saying that players are lifebloods, yet you are not trying to take care of the lives of our league. This is a hypocrite.
“I understand the bargaining strategy and the business and logistical side of things … These are the same people who consider the CFL to be a major league. Which major leagues don’t have to deal with any kind of change, any kind of development, where Is that today? At some point, we have to despair of just being good enough.”
And for Dennis, it’s time the CFL backs its partnership talk on the bargaining table.
“At the end of the day, actions speak louder than words,” he said. “If I tell my kids that I’ll take them out for ice cream, they’ll say, ‘Hey, Dad, you told us you were going to get us ice cream, right?’
“My point is, if they (CFL) keep saying these words and making statements and it seems like they care about us, why is it so hard for them to show it?”
Denise, 33, never hesitates to explain how it is or stick to her principles. In 2016 the CFL’s top lineman Edmonton sat out all previous seasons after being asked to be released or traded by the Elks. When let go, Dennis re-signed with Calgary in January, where he played in 2015-16 and 2018-19.
“A lot of people think I’m being negative based on what I do and say, but no, I’m not,” Dennis said. “I love this league and I want to see it progress and get better.
“I want my time in the league, what I’ve done on the field and the impact I’ve made on past generations beyond myself. I don’t want to be just another body that came and evolved into nothing. Yes, CFL 100 years. has lived till but the way it is going how long can it survive It’s okay to incur a loss? But the reason they (CFLs) are okay with the loss is because they recover it from us.”
What frustrates Dennis as well is his belief that the CFL does not hold itself to the same standard as its players.
“As athletes, we always strive for excellence,” he said. “So why is it… the people who are in charge of requiring us to be this way don’t act the same way? That’s my biggest irony.
“At the end of the day the coaches, the teams, the owners, the sponsors, everyone benefits from what we do, so why are we the last people when we think about being able to benefit to some degree? Not even in a big way, just to some degree. We are pro athletes and we can’t even benefit from what we do and how hard we work. Where does fairness come from in that?”
Last week, CFL players voted to strike their union with 95 percent. League players went on strike once in 1974, but the situation was resolved before the start of the regular season.
Dennis said he would follow in whatever direction he wanted to go.
Dennis said, “I pride myself on being a great partner and whatever my brother decides is the best course of action… that’s what I’m willing to do.” “I know a lot of people were amazed by what I did last year, but in the end, yes, I’m a football player, but I’m a person first.
“If I feel I’m being treated unfairly, I don’t have to accept that unfair treatment. The days of ‘shut up and play ball’ are long gone.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 9, 2022.