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Lions veteran GM Buono has mixed feelings about CFL's fine against Eskimos

03/07/2013 04:59 EST | Updated 05/07/2013 05:12 EDT
B.C. Lions GM Wally Buono has mixed emotions about the CFL's decision to fine the Edmonton Eskimos for violating its tampering rules.

"When I see the CFL do this, a part of me is unhappy because of the fact that there obviously must have been an indiscretion," he said. "But the other part of me is extremely happy that the league is monitoring everyone's activities and making it such that everyone is playing by the same rules."

On Wednesday, the league slapped the Eskimos with a $10,000 fine for the violation when signing free-agent defensive lineman Odell Willis. Edmonton announced the addition of Willis on Feb. 15, mere minutes after the noon ET start of free agency.

There have long been persistent whispers that some CFL teams speak to perspective free agents during the period before the league-mandated start of free agency. Players compound the situation by talking among themselves, as every off-season there are those who will try to sway potential free agents their way in order to make their teams stronger.

But what was most peculiar — and ultimately damning — about Edmonton's announcement was the timing of it. The Eskimos sent out a release about having signed Willis just four minutes after he had officially become a free agent after spending the 2012 season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Eskimos president Len Rhodes responded by saying in a statement the club respected "the position taken by the Canadian Football League and commissioner Mark Cohon. As a result we feel that no other public comment is necessary nor will it be forthcoming from the Eskimo organization."

But Rob Murphy, the outspoken former B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts offensive lineman, feels the CFL didn't go far enough in penalizing the Eskimos.

"The penalty for tampering in #CFL should be the loss of draft picks. That's the one way this Tom Foolery will end.. Hit em where it hurts," he said Wednesday on his Twitter account.

It marks the second straight off-season that the CFL has fined a team for tampering. Last year, the Toronto Argonauts were slapped with a $5,000 penalty for talking to defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones while he was still under contract to the Calgary Stampeders.

Buono, 63, the CFL's longest tenured GM and one of its most respected, said it's important the league's head office protect its teams from themselves.

"From a general perspective the CFL has rules and the CFL head office has to enforce them," he said. "I've always advocated that we need a strong, strong league office that protects all of us from all of us."

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