5 Important Differences for Players to Know Between the CFL and NFL

By: Chad Wilson – Editor – GridironStuds Blog
Twitter: @GridironStuds

Over the next few months the NFL draft will take center stage as players head to Indianapolis for the combine and continue preparations for the actual draft at the end of April. For many college football seniors and even some early draft entires, the NFL won’t be an immediate possibility but some can find a home in the Canadian Football League aka CFL. Here are five major differences between the NFL and CFL.

The Size of the Field

American football players are used to a football field’s dimensions. From the time they can remember playing, they have been on a a 120 yard (including end zones) long field that is 53.5 yards wide. While those calculations aren’t stuck in the mind of the American football player, they are certainly, through years of playing, aware of where the space is and runs out on a football field. However, a trip to Canada will certainly require an adjustment to the size of the playing field in Canadian football. A Canadian football field is significantly bigger in that it’s 150 yards long (including the 20 yard end zones) and 65 yards wide. There’s icertainly more room for the East West runners of the football in Canada.

Number of Players on the Field

The amount of extra room on the field would be worrisome for an American defensive player heading over to Canada but don’t worry too much. In Canada, there are more players on the field of play. In American football, teams are allowed to have 11 players on the field at the snap of the ball. In Canada, each side may have 12 players on the field. Like in American football, Canadian offenses must have seven men on the line of scrimmage, so the extra player is usually in the backfield. On defense, most teams deploy an additional defensive back in their lineup. The extra player per side basically makes up for the additional space that a Canadian field has. However, the number difference may present some different schemes both offensively and defensively that the American player may need to adjust to.

Motion Before the Snap

Talk to any American player that has made the move across the border to play in the CFL and they’ll tell you that the motion before the snap is the biggest adjustment. All offensive players in the backfield (except the quarterback) in Canadian football can be in motion at the snap of the ball . Equally important is that those players can be moving forward at the snap so long as they are not across the line of scrimmage prior to the snap. In addition, the two players at the end of the line of scrimmage, typically wide receivers can be in motion along the line of scrimmage prior to the snap. These rules make it tougher for defenders to cover their man and for cornerbacks to get a jam on wideouts. An adjustment to long standing techniques for defensive backs may be in order to adjust to the Canadian game. This is a big reason why Canadian League games typical are higher scoring and CFL betting sites often have higher betting point totals posted for CFL games.

Roster Restrictions

The biggest issue for American players heading North of the border to play in the CFL are the roster restrictions. NFL rosters can carry 53 active players on their roster during a season. In Canada, teams can carry 44 players. However, the biggest note is the fact that the CFL rules mandate that 21 of those 44 players must be Canadian citizen’s or a resident of Canada for five years prior their 18th birthday. So sometimes, for American players, it truly becomes a numbers game when trying to make a CFL team roster.

Player Salaries

Here is the biggest kicker for American college football players looking to head to the CFL. If your thought was that you will just go to Canada to play ball and live the lifestyle of a NFL player then you will need to exterminate that thinking. Here are the foggy facts. The average CFL salary is $80,000 per year with the rookie minimum being $50,000 per year. Compare this to the NFL average salary being $1.9 million with a rookie minimum in 2017 of $465,000 for players on the active roster. Furthermore, Canadian born players are compensated better as a whole than American players in the CFL. It becomes a little bit more difficult for American players to be paid an All Star salary in the CFL as opposed to Canadian born high performers. Add to this that salaries are paid in Canadian currency so there is a loss once converted to to American dollars. A $50,000 salary in the CFL actually converts to $39,500 in US dollars. When you consider the expenses involved with maintaining residences in two different countries, it’s little wonder why American CFL players often maintain offseason jobs. Despite these facts, one must keep in mind that for many American born CFL players you are either playing to earn a NFL opportunity or you really love football and would play it no matter what the salary. This video by an American born player on YouTube gives a solid perspective on this topic.

So there you have it. The differences outlined in this article are not the only ones that exist between the NFL and the CFL. However, I feel these are some of the most important ones to be aware of and consider when you weigh your options for a professional football career in Canada.

Author: Chad Wilson

Chad Wilson is a college football recruiting expert and creator of the GridironStudsApp which allows high school football players to gain exposure to college football coaches and fans. Wilson is a former college football player for the University of Miami (92-94) and Long Beach St. (’90-’91) and played briefly for the Seattle Seahawks (’95). He is also a former youth and high school football coach for over 15 years. Wilson’s older son Quincy plays in the NFL for the Indianapolis Colts and his younger son plays cornerback for the University of Florida. Email: cwilson@gridironstuds.com.

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