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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 12, 2020
This year, it’s more than just your typical Canadian Football League Draft.
The annual infusion of fresh blood to rosters across the league here in 2020 has been a rock jutting up from the commotion in the ocean that the COVID-19 has turned into an all out maelstrom.
For coaches and general mangers, the draft has been a beacon they’ve been able to look to and focus on while combines, scouting trips, training camps and, indeed, the season itself has been postponed or outright cancelled amid isolating measures.
But draft day hasn’t changed. It will still be held on Thursday (6 p.m., TSN), one week following the commencement of the National Football League Draft, which transpired in the same virtual style that has been the custom of the CFL all along, with football ops phoning in their choices from across the country.
And so, CFL clubs steer ever closer to the only spot on the map still marked with an X, focusing one eye on the future of their roster while not knowing exactly what the other sees on the coming horizon.
“It’s obviously chaotic for us in this industry just like it is for everybody,” Edmonton Eskimos general manger Brock Sunderland said while conducting day-to-day business from his home in Edmonton. “It’s uncharted waters and we’re navigating through it as best we can.
“The biggest thing right now has been focusing on the draft,” said Sunderland, pointing out the difference is they haven’t been able to hold draft meetings face to face with their facilities at Commonwealth Stadium shut down.
“Where our head coach can be here and all the scouts can be here together. We’re going to have to do everything by phone.
“Luckily, in today’s world, we have the technology where we can do conference calls and the Zoom stuff. We can also all watch film from our home, so we’re fortunate.”
Luck wasn’t on their side with the timing of a coaching change just prior to the pandemic, which has newly instated head coach Scott Milanovich on the other side of the U.S. border closure.
“We’ve got a couple people here, separated, but we’re all watching film just like you normally would,” Sunderland said. “So we’re fortunate that it’s not 30 years ago, where you had to come in and actually do all this from the office, because that would be even more challenging.”
And, while the Eskimos are missing out on putting live eyes on the guys up for drafting, along with the one-on-one interviews that have proven every bit as valuable as any physical testing, every other team in the league is treading the same water heading into Thursday.
“I kind of look at it both ways. I think there is some benefit because all I am doing is taking what I see on film, which is how the game’s played,” Milanovich said from his Florida home. “You’re not reading too much into a 40 (yard sprint) time or some drill that they did when you can see, ‘Hey, these guys can play football.’ So that part of it is probably a benefit.
“Now, I do like the interview process, so I miss out on that. Just kind of getting to know a guy and see if you can push their buttons a little bit and seeing what kind of charisma they have. So that part of it I miss. But once again, everybody is in the same boat so you just do what you can, find as much background as you can and talk to people you trust and make an informed decision.”
The danger, of course, is having talent get overlooked in an ultra-competitive field where it is difficult enough for a player to get himself noticed at the best of times.
“That’s the thing, it’s going to hurt guys, I’m guessing. Guys like Jermaine Gabriel. We found him from the Calgary Colts when I was in Toronto,” Milanovich said. “He tested really well somewhere, that’s what I remember about Jermaine, and we kind of fell in love with him and ended up with him. So a guy that maybe is flying under the radar that has the ability to test well but people don’t know about, I could see where that might hurt a guy like that.”
The same doesn’t hold true at the top end of the prospects list.
“Now, like your lineman from down the street from you,” Milanovich said of high-ranked University of Alberta Golden Bears left tackle Carter O’Donnell, who just signed as an undrafted free agent with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, “that guy’s a well-known commodity. So there’s going to be those guys who are already well known and I doubt it’s going to bother them that much.
“It’s kind of the guys that are flying below the radar, I think, that it may hurt.”
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020