Quarterbacks got (a bit) safer today

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It just got (a little) safer to be a CFL quarterback

The league made a pretty big on-the-fly move today, adding an extra official whose only job is to watch for hits to the head and neck of QBs. They'll start right away. There will be one on the field for both of this Sunday's playoff games, which will decide who plays in the Grey Cup. The hope is that the extra ref acts as a deterrent to dangerous hits, since those hits are now more likely to be penalized.

This is partly a response to a controversial hit late in last week's playoff game between Saskatchewan and Winnipeg. Roughriders QB Brandon Bridge was knocked out of the game by a vicious high hit that went unflagged (Jackson Jeffcoat, who delivered the blow, later received the max fine from the league). A replay showed the referee in position to make the call had his view blocked by a player. The Riders weren't happy, and you can't blame them. Bridge, the backup, was only playing because No. 1 QB Zach Collaros was laid low by another high hit in their regular-season finale. No flag was thrown on that one either.

Head injuries to quarterbacks have been a problem for the CFL this year. There's a concussion spotter at every game, but they're missing things. Commissioner Randy Ambrosie admitted that Collaros shouldn't have been allowed to keep playing after his hit, and Montreal's Johnny Manziel stayed in a game after getting crushed at the goal-line (he later went into the league's concussion protocol and sat out a few games).

Since taking over as CFL commissioner in 2017, Ambrosie has tried to improve safety. The former player banned full-contact practices and added an extra bye week for every team. He says he's "committed to removing reckless and dangerous play from our game" and his actions mostly back that up. But Ambrosie, like his predecessors, still hasn't admitted a link between football-related concussions and degenerative brain disease — even though studies have suggested one exists.

In pro football, quarterbacks are the most protected players on the field. For good reason: it's hard to protect your body from an onrushing 300-pounder when you're trying to chuck a ball 40 yards downfield. And great QBs make the game go 'round. It's important to keep them healthy. That's why both the CFL and NFL have altered their rules in recent years to make it harder to hit them. It's paid off in the NFL, where scoring is up this year and fans are embracing the flashier product.

Usain Bolt might be done with soccer already

The greatest sprinter of all time spent two months trying to win a spot on a team in Australia's top league. That ended when he rejected a contract offer a couple of weeks ago. The team reportedly offered Bolt about $ 150,000 US, but he wanted more. Both sides tried to find a sponsor to fatten the deal, but it didn't work out.

Now Bolt says he'll decide by the end of the month whether he'll keep pursuing a soccer career. He scored two goals in a friendly but was generally considered not good enough for the Australian league, which is far from elite.

Could Bolt make a track comeback? He'd be the story of the 2020 Olympics if he decided to go for his fourth (!) consecutive titles in the 100, 200 and 4×100, or any combination of those. It's not out of the question. Bolt will still be only 33 for the Tokyo Games. The runner-up to him in 2016, Justin Gatlin, was 34.

Sure, this was fun. But it would be nice to see him back on the track. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)

Quickly…

Dwane Casey got his revenge. The former Raptors coach, who was fired last spring after leading the team to its best-ever regular season, returned to Toronto last night as coach of the Pistons. His new guys came through for him as Blake Griffin dropped 30 points and Reggie Bullock hit a buzzer beater for a 106-104 win. It was Toronto's second straight loss at home after starting 7-0. "I'm not happy for him," Raps guard Kyle Lowry said with his typical grace. "We should have won the game."

LeBron James is coming for Michael Jordan. The Lakers star (still feels weird to say that) scored 44 points last night to pass Wilt Chamberlain for fifth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Next up is Jordan. LeBron should pass him sometime early in the new year if he maintains his career scoring average of about 27 points per game and doesn't get hurt (he's pretty much indestructible, so count on that). When that happens, get ready for another round of "Who's the greatest ever?" takes… OK, you twisted my arm. For me it's still MJ. For now. LeBron is only 33, so by the time he's done there's a good chance he'll be the No. 1 all-time scorer. And he could even win three more rings to match Jordan's six. Then you'd have to go LeBron.

This year's NL Cy Young winner is another example of how baseball thinking has changed. Back in the Stone Age (before Moneyball) a pitcher needed a lot of wins to be named the best in his league. Now nobody cares about that. It's a deeply flawed stat — it's possible to give up, say, 20 runs and still get a win. Jacob deGrom won the National League Cy Young yesterday with only 10 wins — lowering the bar from the previous low of 13. Voters see more nuance these days, and they took into account the poor run support deGrom got from his Mets teammates, as well as his high strikeout total and low earned-run average. In another sign of the times, Tampa Bay's Blake Snell won the AL Cy Young with just 180 innings pitched, the fewest ever for a starter winning the award. Starters aren't expected to work as long anymore in the modern game.

Child kickboxing in Thailand is under the microscope after a 13-year-old boy died following a fight. Anucha Tasako was knocked out during a Muay Thai bout in a Bangkok suburb and reportedly suffered a brain hemorrhage. Muay Thai is a form of boxing that allows punching, kicking, elbow and knee strikes and standup grappling. It's fairly common for children in Thailand to fight for money, especially in rural areas, and proponents say it's a way for them to help support their families and rise out of poverty. Thai lawmakers are considering legislation banning anyone under 12 from fighting competitively. But Muay Thai supporters say that could kill the sport because it's essential to start young in order to master it.


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