By Perry Lefko
Brandon Bridge could be setting a precedent for Canadians who want to play quarterback in the Canadian Football League (CFL).
The 25-year-old Mississauga native recently signed a one-year contract with the Saskatchewan Roughriders with whom he’s played the last two seasons. He also met with CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie to talk about changing the status of Canadian quarterbacks. Currently, each team can dress three quarterbacks for the 44-player game-day roster. The three pivots can be from any country, although almost all of them are from the U.S. Teams are limited to 20 internationals (players who are not Canadians) and a minimum of 21 nationals (Canadians).
Now there is a push to change the ratio, largely because of Bridge, who started a game for the Roughriders last season, and fellow Canadian Andrew Buckley, who is principally a backup quarterback with the Calgary Stampeders.
Bridge will be discussing the issue with the Canadian Football League Players’ Association. Whether or not the change will happen in time for this season or will remain status quo is uncertain. If a team can use one of the three quarterback spots to count among the game-day nationals quota, it could allow for the development of more Canadian pivots.
Bridge dressed for all 18 regular-season games for the Riders last season. He threw three touchdown passes in a Saskatchewan win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Bridge did well coming off the bench in several games, including the team’s second playoff game, throwing a touchdown in the team’s 25-21 loss to the Toronto Argonauts, who went on to win the Grey Cup. He was eligible to become a free agent on February 13, 2018, but opted to re-sign with Saskatchewan for one year.
Bridge told Peel Region Review he had a 30-minute conversation with Ambrosie and it went well. He approached Ambrosie when the commissioner was in Regina and told him he wanted to discuss the ratio. During the regular season, he wanted to become a starter in the CFL and was not concerned about making a statement about being a Canadian quarterback. That changed when he had a chance to play more regularly.
“I just felt I’m in a position to actually help make changes and help the younger generation have an easier path,” he said.
Bridge says CFL general managers are more inclined to dress American quarterbacks because they have more experience than Canadians. Bridge took a different path than most Canadian quarterbacks, playing in the U.S. after graduating from high school.
“I didn’t walk the same footsteps as a Canadian quarterback, but I have the same passport,” he said. “I’ve still got to jump the same barrier. I just felt that if I can become a spokesperson to help out, why not?
“If I didn’t start a game or didn’t play well, it would have been exactly as it’s been and wouldn’t have even been talked about. There hasn’t been a good (Canadian) quarterback in so long. Since I’ve become aware of the history behind it, I want to help make a change. There’s a famous quote: with great power comes great responsibility. For me to be able to start and actually play and do well, that’s all going to help out the whole cause. This would have no success and no reasoning behind it if I wasn’t doing the things I was doing out on the field.”
While Bridge had some interest from the New York Giants of the National Football League after the CFL season, he was told the team wanted to see him play as a full-time starter before making a commitment. Bridge and his agent decided to sign a one-year deal rather than lock in longer.
“I feel good (about the season coming up),” he said. “I think it’s a great opportunity. I can enjoy the off-season. I know whom I’m going to play with – there’s obviously familiar faces. I think we have a great chance of going back to where we were, maybe possibly going further for the simple fact we have that chemistry and it looks like we’re getting that core group of guys back. I think we’ve got a great chance of going the distance.”
He thinks the 2018 season will be his best chance to become a starter because this will be his third year in the Riders’ system and he knows the team’s playbook.
“I’ve got more experience,” he said. “Every year will be a better year and a better opportunity to have more success.”
Photo courtesy of the Saskatchewan Roughriders