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Both sides say positive tone starts CFL bargaining talks

Randy Ambrosie tosses a football as he speaks during a press conference in Toronto on July 5, 2017. The CFL commissioner said Friday he'll be meeting football officials from Germany later this month to discuss the possibility of Canadian and German players suiting up in the respective circuits. .
Randy Ambrosie tosses a football as he speaks during a press conference in Toronto on July 5, 2017. The CFL commissioner said Friday he'll be meeting football officials from Germany later this month to discuss the possibility of Canadian and German players suiting up in the respective circuits. . THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

It’s been quiet and that is probably a good thing.

The second week of talks geared at getting a new collective bargaining agreement between the Canadian Football League and the CFL Players Association finished up this past Monday and Tuesday in Calgary. They are scheduled to meet again next week in Vancouver and the following week in Toronto.

“Positive and productive” were words that CFLPA executive director Brian Ramsay used after the first two sessions on Wednesday. On a conference call he refused to go into any detail on what has been discussed so far, but did say that things seemed to be moving forward on a new CBA to replace the current one. It expires just before training camps are due to begin in May.

“I’m confident we’re taking steps,” Ramsay, a former Eskimos offensive lineman, said.

“It’s a process and its a long one. It’s still very early but I am confident we are taking steps.”

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CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie was in Edmonton last week as part of his off-season tour and he also had a positive take on things

“I thought they were great,” Ambrosie, another former Eskimos offensive lineman, said before speaking to a group of Eskimos season ticket holders. “The first two days were everything we could have hoped them to be — positive and and professional”

READ MORE: Eskimos’ season-ticket holders speak to CFL commissioner as ‘Randy’s Road Trip’ hits Edmonton

Since those comments the two sides have met again in Calgary and more meetings are planned.

Edmonton Eskimos players rep Ryan King joined the talks this week in Calgary and will likely be a fixture on the players side the rest of the way. He also echoed a positive tone when speaking with Reid Wilkins on 630 CHED Inside Sports on Wednesday night.

“Discussions are on going on a whole bunch of topics,” King said. “There’s an understanding on both sides on negotiating. We see their good points and views and they see ours. At the end of the day we just want a respectful deal that represents the membership and they need a respectful deal that represents the CFL. We are both kind of on the same page.”

LISTEN BELOW: Ryan King on Inside Sports with Reid Wilkins

King, like Ramsay and Ambrosie, won’t talk specifics and said both sides have agreed not to play these CBA talks out in a public forum.

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“We have all collectively agreed that we are not going to bargain through the media.”

WATCH BELOW: (Feb. 14) Edmonton Eskimos head coach Jason Maas said fans should look forward to a great season.

‘Look forward to a great season’: Head coach’s message to Edmonton Eskimos fans
‘Look forward to a great season’: Head coach’s message to Edmonton Eskimos fans

A good sign for negotiations, not so great for fans hoping for updates on progress.

The hot button topics are expected to be the Canadian ratio for rosters, the salary cap, minimum salaries and, one of the biggest issues, player safety. King knows there are no shortage of things to talk about.

“Multiple other major issues are being bargained right now. We wont get into specifics because we are in negotiations and were bargaining a deal right now”

LISTEN BELOW: Edmonton Eskimos player rep Ryan King on CFL CBA talks

King says both sides agree that player safety will be front and centre at some point.

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“If there is no players on the field there is no product to be shown to the fans,” he said. “We have to be able to protect our players. There is a lot of important topics, WCB being a headliner — and has been this off season so far — and that’s a main driver from the CFLPA to protect our members and give them long term health coverage.”

READ MORE: Edmonton hosts CFL Western Regional Combine

While CBA talks are the most important thing going on this off season in the CFL, it is still business as usual around the Canadian Football League.

Players are working out getting ready for training camp, teams are still signing players, some teams will have mini camps for rookies and the combine is on this week in Toronto, followed by the Canadian Draft on May 2.

WATCH BELOW: (March 11) Some of Canada’s top football prospects were in Edmonton Monday for the CFL Combine. This is one the last chances for players to turn heads before the CFL Draft. Kent Morrison reports.

Top football prospects in Edmonton for CFL Combine
Top football prospects in Edmonton for CFL Combine

“We can walk and chew gum at the same time,” said Ambrosie.

The two sides will meet again in Vancouver next week.

In Eskimos news, the team announced the signing of fullback Alexander Dupuis to a new contract on Thursday. The six-foot-three, 243 pound native of Montreal is heading into his sixth CFL season and third with the Eskimos.

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The soon to be 29-year-old had one reception for 12 yards last season in eight games. He suffered a bicep injury and finished 2018 on the six game injured list.