Welcome to the Canadian Football League, with 12 players to a side, three downs and backfield in motion. Until the NFL settles its strike, it's the only pro football available.
NBC is giving the CFL its chance on network television south of its border today when it televises a doubleheader featuring the British Columbia Lions and the Toronto Argonauts in the first game (WRC-TV-4 at 1:30 p.m.) and the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos in the second game at 4 p.m.
There are a number of basic differences in Canadian football that make for a wide-open game.
According to CFL Commissioner Jake Gaudaur, the CFL averages 52 points a game, compared to 41 the NFL averaged last year, and the Canadian teams average about 100 yards a game more in passing.
The Canadian field is 110 yards long, 10 yards longer than an American field. It is 65 yards wide; an American field is 53 yards 1 foot wide. The Canadian end zones are 25 yards deep; the American end zones 10 yards.
The Canadians also have one more way to score. It's called a rouge, or a single. Any kick or punt that goes into the end zone and is not returned out of the end zone counts for one point. There is no automatic touchback unless the ball goes out of bounds or through the end zone.
Each team has 12 players, seven linemen and five backs. All the backs can be in motion in any direction at the same time. In American football, only one back can be in motion and he cannot be moving forward.
The Canadians also get only three downs and have a choice of trying a one-point or two-point conversion after a touchdown.
Offensive backs and receivers must wear numbers from 1 to 39 or 70 to 99 and ineligible receivers wear numbers from 40 to 69.
The league is divided into two divisions: Toronto, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Montreal Concordes and Ottawa Rough Riders in the East and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Calgary, British Columbia, Edmonton and the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West.
The CFL has a 16-game regular season running from July 8 to Nov. 7. The playoffs begin Nov. 14 and the Grey Cup, the Canadian equivalent to the Super Bowl, will be played Nov. 28 in Toronto this year.
The Canadians have 34-man rosters and a four-man reserve lists, compared to 49-man rosters, including four reserves, in the NFL. There is a limit of 15 U.S. players on each team. The U.S. players aren't drafted, but placed on a negotiation list. Any team can put anyone it wants on its negotiation list at any time, but the list is limited to 20 players. The Canadian players are drafted or signed as free agents.
The minimum salary in the league is $18,000 and the average salary is $42,500.
The top players in today's games should be Toronto quarterback Condredge Holloway, British Columbia quarterback Roy Dewalt, Toronto wide receiver Terry Greer and Edmonton quarterback Warren Moon.
Holloway, from Tennessee, has passed for 2,814 yards and 20 touchdown in 10 games this year.
The league's leading passer is former Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Clements, who plays for Hamilton. He has completed 234 of 362 passes for 3,058 yards and 13 touchdowns. The leading rusher is former Arkansas halfback Skip Walker of Ottawa. He has gained 646 yards for a 5.2 average in 10 games.