Glossary of CFL Terminology
There are a number of terms unique to the Canadian Football League. For new or curious fans cfldb provides this glossary of some phrases and their definitions. Positional terms are listed first, followed by roster terminology. While we will continue to expand and improve this page, you can help us improve and add to this section by contacting cfldb with terms you would like explained or suggestions for improvement.
Please see the FAQ for answers to questions beyond terminology such as schedules, players, rosters and compensation.
These definitions are meant as an introduction to the unfamiliar. There are nuances and subtleties to the rules surrounding positions and movement not covered here. To understand these fully, please see the rulebook.
- Offensive Line
- Five players make up the offensive line, lined up on the line of scrimmage. Line players must be motionless before the snap. Two additional players must line up on the line of scrimmage to meet the requirements of seven players on the line.
- Centre (C)
- Player in the centre of the offensive line whose duty it is to snap the ball between his legs to the quarterback to start each play from scrimmage.
- Guard (Right and Left) (OG, ORG, OLG)
- Players immediately on either side of the centre, part of the offensive line.
- Tackle (Right and Left) (OT, RT, LT, ORT, OLT)
- Players on the ends of the offensive line, on the outside of each guard.
- Quarterback (QB)
- Player behind the centre who takes the snap to start each play from scrimmage.
- Running back (RB)
- Player in the backfield who can accept handoffs/pitches on a running play, block or escape the backfield as a receiver.
- Fullback (FB)
- A bulkier, bigger running back whose primary purpose may be to block but also may receive the ball on a running or passing play. CFL offences normally do not deploy a fullback in all scrimmage situations, deploying a fifth receiver instead.
- Tight end (TE)
- Tight ends are normally deployed at the ends of the line of scrimmage and count as the 6th and 7th men on the line of scrimmage or be lined up 1 yard off the line of scrimmage. If they are on the line of scrimmage, one other player must be lined up one yard off the line of scrimmage. Single or double tight end formations are normally only seen in short yardage or special formations in the CFL.
- Slotback (SB)
- The inside receivers, closest to the quarterback. Slotbacks are allowed to "waggle" or move towards the line of scrimmage before the snap.
- Wide Receiver (WR)
- The receivers widest on either side of the field. Normally they line up on the line of scrimmage, but can be in motion before the snap.
- Defensive Line (DL)
- In a 4-3 defence, there are 4 defensive linemen. In a 3-4 defence, there are 3 defensive linemen.
- Defensive end (DE)
- Defensive player on either end of the defensive line.
- Rush end (RE)
- Defensive end whose primary purpose is to rush the quarterback, usually from a stand up position rather than a down lineman. This term has dropped in usage since its peak in the 1990's.
- Defensive tackle (DT)
- Defensive player in the centre of the defensive line (2 tackles in a 4-3 defence).
- Nose tackle (NT)
- Defensive tackle in the centre of the defensive line (1 tackle in a 3-4 defence).
- Linebackers (LB)
- Players behind the defensive line providing run and pass support. In a 4-3 defence, there are 3 linebackers. In a 3-4 defence, there are 4 linebackers.
- Weak-side linebacker (Will)
- Linebacker who plays the weak-side (short hash mark side) of the field.
- Middle Linebacker (Mac)
- Linebacker who plays the middle linebacker position.
- Strong-side linebacker (Sam)
- Linebacker who plays the strong-side (long hash mark side) of the field.
- Defensive back (DB)
- Sometimes refers to all defensive coverage players, or also the inside coverage players responsible for covering inside receivers or territory of the field.
- Halfback (HB)
- Ambiguous term that has fallen out of usage. Could refer to a running back or the inside defensive back. Normally prefixed as Defensive Halfback to indicate the player covering the inside receivers (normally slotbacks).
- Cornerback (CB)
- Defensive back responsible for covering the outside receivers or territory of the field.
- Safety (S) (aka Free safety)
- The defensive back in the middle of the formation.
- Extra defensive backs that enter the game in obvious passing situations. Since the CFL normally deploys five defensive backs, Nickelback would be a misnomer (it is named for the fifth DB, i.e. nickel) for the sixth DB and Dimeback would be more appropriate for the sixth defensive back, but then what you call the seventh DB in prevent defenses?
Rosters and Qualification Rules
- Active Roster
- Prior to each game, each member club shall establish its active roster at:
- a maximum of 42 players, including three players who shall be identified as quarterbacks and 39 other players, of whom not more than 19 may be imports, or
- a minimum of 41 players, including two players who shall be identified as quarterbacks and 39 other players, of whom not more than 19 may be imports.
- College Draft
The annual draft of Canadian players graduating from universities in Canada and the United States. The details governing the eligibility of players and draft conduct is defined in Section 6 of the CFL By-laws.
- Designated Import (DI)
A designated import is a import designated to only replace another import on the field. This restriction provides for additional non-imports to play starting positions while provided a larger roster size. The designated import restrictions are defined in the CFL By-laws, Section 8, sub-sections 1 and 2 as amended by Article 3 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
- When the Member Club dresses its full quota of import players three shall be designated imports and designated as special team players who may enter the game at another position only upon the understanding that another import player is required to leave the game for that play.
- When the Member Club dresses 18 import players, two shall be designated imports and designated as special team players who may enter the game at another position only upon the understanding that another import player is required to leave the game for that play.
- When the Member Club dresses 17 import players, one shall be a designated import and designated as a special team player who may enter the game at another position only upon the understanding that another import player is required to leave the game for that play.
- Disabled List
A player who is judged unfit to play for reasons other than a football related injury may, at the request of the Club, be placed on the Disabled List as defined in Section 9, Item D of the CFL By-laws.
- Franchise Territory
The operating and marketing area granted to a franchise. Definitions of Franchise Territory is defined in the CFL Constitution, Article IV and the current franchise territory limits are recorded in paragraph 4.07 of that section.
- Game Roster
See Active Roster.
- Graduating Junior
A junior player who attains the age of 23 during the current calendar year.
- Import (I, IMP)
Defined in the league By-laws, modified by the Article 14, Section 2 of the CBA as:
(a) A player who has received training in football outside of Canada by having participated as a player in a football game outside of Canada prior to attaining the age of seventeen years.
(b) A player who has received training in football outside of Canada by having participated in a football game as a player outside of Canada after attaining the age of seventeen years, but who has received no football training in Canada prior to attaining the age of seventeen years.
razzledazzle has a one page graphic and explanation of CFL roster restrictions and definitions.
- Injured List
- Section 9F of the CFL By-laws define the nine-game injured list, as amended in the 2010 CBA (pg. 42).
- The nine-game injured list players' salaries do not count against the salary cap. There is also a one-game injured list where players can be placed and not count against the active roster or reserve list. Players' salaries on the one-game injured list do count against the cap.
- Junior Player
- A person shall be considered to be of junior age in any year prior to the year in which the age of twenty-three years is attained as defined in Section 5 of the CFL By-laws. Franchise territorial rights assign the exclusive right to contact, negotiate with and sign a junior player to the Club's territorial limits whom the junior player is domiciled within. A junior player shall be permitted to participate in that member Club's practice sessions without being signed to a Standard Player Contract.
- Negotiation List
- A Club may claim exclusive negotiation rights to a specified number of players on its Negotiation List, and may make changes daily. More information on negotiation lists can be found in the FAQ.
- The full rules regarding Franchise Negotiation Lists can be found in Section 3 of the CFL By-laws.
- Negotiation lists may contain import and non-import players, but teams may not list players who are considered a veteran by the terms of the CBA. Those players, when not signed by any team, are free agents and may negotiate and sign with any club.
- Non-Active List
- Players not under contract who are permitted to practice with a Club are declared on the Non-Active List.
- Non-import (N, NIP)
- Defined in the CFL By-laws, modified in the CBA Article 14, Section 2 as:
- (a) A Player other than one defined as an import.
- (b) A Player classified as a non-import Player prior to November 28th, 2005.
- (c) A Player who is physically resident in Canada for an aggregate period of seven years prior to attaining the age of 15 years, or a Player who is a Canadian citizen and was physically resident in Canada for an aggregate period of five (5) years prior to attaining the age of 18 years.
razzledazzle has a one page graphic and explanation of CFL roster restrictions.
- Option Clause
- Each player contract contains a clause which gives the Club the option to renew the contract for another season.
- Reserve List
- Players on a Club's roster who are not dressed for a game are carried on the Reserve List. The Reserve List shall consist of up to four players.
- Retired List
- A player who elects to retire may, at the request of the Club, be placed on the Retired Players List. Players placed on the Retired List are subject to rules regarding when they can return to active duty as defined in Section 9, Item B of the CFL By-laws.
- A player who has not been named on any CFL team's active roster, reserve, injured or disabled list, or the equivalent category of a team in any other professional league at the time a game was played in a previous season.
- Roster Cutdown Day
- The date determined by the league when a Club is required to establish its roster within the prescribed limits. The cutdown day is generally defined as 21 days from the commencement of training camp per Article 6.01.7 of the CBA
- Roster Quota
- The League determines the number of players a Club may have on its roster, the number that may dress for a game, and how many may be imports. The roster size and ratio are negotiated in the collective bargaining agreement with the Players Association.
- Suspension List
- A player who violates his contract with the Club may, upon application to the Commissioner, be placed on the League Suspension List as defined in Section 9, Item C of the CFL By-laws.
- Territorial Rights
- A person given a junior player designation may not be, either directly or indirectly, contacted, negotiated with or signed by any other member Club other than the one whose territory the player is domiciled.
- A waggle is the motion of a receiver towards the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped. Slotbacks generally take a running start towards the line of scrimmage, trying to time their arrival with the snap of the ball.
- Waivers are defined in the league By-laws, Section 4.
- Before a club may terminate a player's contract it must give other Clubs the opportunity to claim the player's services.