CFL Football Column: The York Report on the CFL
The CFL's Top Running Back is Canadian
It was happening last season with Jerome Messam in Edmonton. He was incredible. But then he went and got hurt and signed with an NFL team and, sooner or later, he'll resurface in the CFL and we'll see if he still can stand out as the league's top running back.
In the meantime, however, another Canadian has emerged as the premier running back in the CFL, and I find that not only different but very cool. He is Andrew Harris, a Winnipeg native, who stars as an elusive runner and respectable pass catcher out of the backfield in the B.C. Lions' offense. He blocks pretty well, too.
To put this in context, please understand that very few Canadian running backs even had the opportunity to carry the ball during the past several decades. Oh, you'd have some big, lumbering Canadian fullback come in from time to time to plunge a yard for a first down or into the end zone from the one-yard line, but this skill position was usually reserved for Americans because they, after all, learned their skill sets as youngsters in the greatest football factory in the world -- the United States.
So what Messam accomplished last season, and what Harris is accomplishing this season, should not be ignored or even underrated. Their performances give hope to young Canadians that they too can be in the limelight in the CFL at a high-profile position and not relegated to backup duty or to offensive-line or kicking positions.
Some day, hopefully, we'll begin to see a Canadian quarterback starring in the CFL, but that's an altogether different story, for a different day.
Back to Harris, though. He leads the CFL in yards from scrimmage, and, in an impressive victory over the Stampeders in Calgary last week, he scored two touchdowns and picked up 97 yards on 14 touches for the Lions. For his efforts, he was chosen the CFL's offensive player of the week.
And so, on Monday, he'll get to continue his prowess against the Argonauts in Toronto.
Or will he?
Sources in B.C. say that Lions head coach Mike Benevides is strongly considering the idea of resting Harris because the back has been playing with turf toe. Turf toe hurts, which is why what Harris achieved against Calgary is even more impressive.
By keeping Harris out of the lineup in Toronto, Benevides would allow his star back to rest his turf toe for an extended period, as the Lions have a bye the next week.
It's an important issue for me to consider in preparing for this week's picks against the spread. Here they are:
Friday, Aug. 3: Montreal Alouettes vs. Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Line: Montreal is favored by 2.5 points.
Marty's analysis: The Blue Bombers weren't all that bad when they finally got to play their first game of the season at home last week and, against the fading Montreal Alouettes and the hurting Anthony Calvillo, I can see Winnipeg pulling out this one at home.
Marty's pick: Take Winnipeg plus the 2.5 points.
Monday, Aug. 6: B.C. Lions vs. Toronto Argonauts
Line: B.C. is favored by 2.5 points.
Marty's analysis: As mentioned, the Lions will not be quite as effective without Harris, or even with Harris playing on a turf toe. The Argos, meanwhile, are showing that, with Ricky Ray at quarterback, they are indeed for real.
Marty's pick: Take Toronto plus the 2.5 points.
Marty's record last week: 3-1.
Marty's record this season: 8-12.
Marty's record last season: 45-30.
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