The CFL suspended defensive back Johnny Sears Jr. of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers one game without pay Tuesday for his controversial hit on Toronto Argonauts quarterback Steven Jyles.
The league rendered the decision after Sears spoke with CFL commissioner Mark Cohon earlier in the day about levelling Jyles with a vicious head shot in Toronto's 27-22 road win over Winnipeg on Friday night.
Jyles had taken off on a run in the fourth quarter and was sliding feet-first when Sears drove his helmet into Jyles' head, which snapped back and bounced violently off the turf, briefly knocking the quarterback unconscious.
Sears was ejected and Jyles eventually was able to walk to the locker-room. However, Jyles remains questionable for Toronto's regular-season finale Thursday night at Rogers Centre against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
“While I appreciate the sincerity of the player in his conversation with me today, this was a reckless and dangerous hit that must be met with appropriate discipline,” Cohon said in a statement. “In our league, with just an 18-game schedule, this is a significant and effective penalty.”
Winnipeg will conclude its regular season Saturday night in Calgary against the Stampeders. Sears had the right to appeal the verdict but said in a statement he'll abide by the league's decision. After serving the suspension, Sears will be eligible to return to the Bombers' lineup in time for the CFL playoffs.
“I accept the commissioner's decision to suspend me and know I am accountable for the consequences of my actions on the field,” Sears said. “It was a split second action and as much as I did not intentionally try to engage in helmet-to-helmet contact, I did, and for that I understand the decision made today.
“It will be extremely difficult to not be a part of Saturday's game but as I said, I will accept this decision and move forward.”
Winnipeg head coach Paul LaPolice echoed those sentiments.
“As I have maintained since the hit Friday, no player is allowed to lead with his helmet,” LaPolice said. “We understand and accept the decision and will move forward this week without the services of Johnny Sears.”
However, it should prove to be a seamless transition for Winnipeg's defence considering Sears isn't a starter on the unit.
The CFL also fined Argos offensive linemen Rob Murphy and Taylor Robertson unspecified amounts for voicing their displeasure regarding the hit on Twitter. Both are injured and didn't play in the game but watched it on TV and tweeted their thoughts afterwards.
“0 (Sears) is lucky I'm not in the province of Manitoba tonight. They would need the Jaws of Life to pry me off of him. I have a good memory. See ya next year, 0,” Murphy tweeted.
Added Robertson: “I don't know who the hell this #0 guy is, but I hope to hell he's in the league next year. I'll take the ejection. I don't care.
“Pretty (mad) at the fact he's standing on the sideline and there isn't someone peeling white jerseys off of him. Cheapest hit I've ever seen.”
On Tuesday, the two Argos used the social media website to say that's how they had found out about the fines, with Murphy tweeting he will appeal the penalty.
“The fact that I just found out that I have been fined by the league, through social media, and not phone call or email is too funny,” Murphy tweeted. “... And just like that... with a quick dial of a #... my appeal process has started...”
An Argos spokesman said the club had no official comment about the league's decisions.
Bombers cornerback Jovon Johnson said before the CFL announced its decision Tuesday the Winnipeg club wasn't threatened by the reactionary tweets from Murphy and Robertson.
“We don't back down so we're not afraid of anything that they have to say,” he said. “This is football. Those guys can say what they want to say, but at the end of the day you can't do something on the field to a player to single him out or you're going to get fined or you're going to get ejected from the game.
“At the end of the day, if they did do something dirty to him, it's going to hurt them more than it's going to hurt us.”
Johnson also stood behind his teammate, saying Sears isn't a dirty football player.
“He doesn't play like that,” Johnson said. “He plays the game how it's supposed to be played and that's fast.
“He made an honest mistake. He couldn't slow himself down and that's just the way the game goes. We don't talk about it. He's not the only person in the league that has been flagged for a hit like that.”
The CFL also fined Khalif Mitchell and Keron Williams of the B.C. Lions undisclosed amounts Tuesday for making critical comments about game officials.
The amounts of the fines were not disclosed but the most a CFL player can be penalized financially under terms of the league's collective bargaining agreement with the CFL Players' Association is half a game cheque.
— With files from Judy Owen in Winnipeg.