Weighing in at about a double cheeseburger short of 400 pounds, linemen like Leonard Davis would never make it in the Canadian Football League.
According to Wally Buono, general manager and head coach of the B.C. Lions, as well as one of the most prominent names in Canadian football, the biggest difference between the NFL and the game north of the border is the size of the players.
“[The players] have to be smaller [and] they have to be quicker, because the width of the field makes everybody have to run more,” Buono said. “There is a yard difference, so from that perspective, it is a different kind of defensive lineman, a different kind of linebacker that plays our game.
“Because of that, you can play smaller backs,” he added. “Our offensive linemen are all around 300 pounds. Guys that are 350-360 just can’t move enough. [They’re] too big because of the fact that quickness becomes a big factor.”
As Buono referred to, the size of the field is different. In the CFL, the gridiron measures 110 yards long (as opposed to the NFL’s 100) and 65 yards wide (NFL fields measure 53 1/3). Moreover, the endzones are up to 10 yards deeper in Canada.
Besides the physical stature of the athletes, the larger field alters the style of play, Buono said.
“With the style of offense that is run, the power game is not quite a part of what we do as much as is the agility, mobility — that stuff. The nature of our game allows guys like [Dolphins OLB/DE] Cam Wake [6’3”, 267] to play defensive line on the edge and be a very, very productive player against the run.”
Buono also notes that for whatever reason — size, skill set or even stigma — players from the CFL do not often make the jump to the NFL, even if he believes they are worthy.
“There’s guys that come from the NFL that are in no way as good or skillful as guys here. [Sometimes] you shake your head and say ‘How did they ever play in that league?’ We have guys here that are very, very good football players. At the end of the day, the game is different enough, and yet, football is football. You gotta still catch and tackle and do all those things.”
Nonetheless, despite the differences, Buono said he sees the two leagues as complements to each other, not rivals.
“The NFL is a great league in its own right, and the CFL is a great league in our country, too. I think that both leagues really can complement each other and I think the big thing that both leagues want to do is just enhance football as a sport. It doesn’t have to be NFL football or CFL football, it’s just football. And that’s our business.”