Rosters Glossary

There are a number of terms unique to the Canadian Football League. For new or curious fans CFLdb provides this glossary of some phrases relating to rosters and their definitions. You can help us improve and add to this section by contacting CFLdb with terms you would like explained or suggestions for improvement.

See the CFL Transaction page for daily transactions and the abbreviations legend for their (DEL, ADD, SUSP, REM SGD, REM UNS, TRF) meaning.

See the glossary page on on-field terminology. Please see the FAQ for answers to questions beyond terminology such as schedules, players, rosters and compensation. The rulebook is the best resource for penalty and foul terminology.

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Rosters and Qualification Rules

Active Roster
One hour prior to each game, each member club shall establish their active roster at:
  • a maximum of 44 players, including three players who shall be identified as quarterbacks and 41 other players, of whom not more than 20 may be Internationals, or
  • a minimum of 43 players, including two players who shall be identified as quarterbacks and 41 other players, of whom not more than 20 may be Internationals.

The active roster is set by placing two (2) players from the 46-man roster on the reserve/non-active list for the upcoming game. This process is sometimes referred as “scratching” and the players as “scratches”. From the point of the 46-man roster being set 24 hours before game time to the end of the game, these are the only changes allowed to the Active Roster and Reserve List allowed without league approval.

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.
Contract
Players must sign a contract to play football with a football club. The terms of the contract provide for the player’s salary and length of the contract. The player may not play football for any other football team during the term of the contract, unless he is released from the contract by the contracted football club. The player has contracted his football services exclusively to the football club for the term of the contract.
Depth Chart
A chart of positions with players listed in order they will see the field. At each starting position, the top player is the starter, and players below backups. A team’s depth is indicated by the quality of players in backup positions, and their ability to fill multiple positions in the case of injury.
Designated International (DI)
A designated international is an International player designated to only replace another International player on the field. This restriction provides for additional Nationals to play starting positions while providing a larger roster size. The designated international 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 International players (20) four shall be designated internationals and designated as special team players who may enter the game at another position only upon the understanding that another International player is required to leave the game for that play.
  • When the Member Club dresses 19 International players, three shall be designated internationals and designated as special team players who may enter the game at another position only upon the understanding that another International player is required to leave the game for that play.
  • When the Member Club dresses 18 International players, two shall be designated internationals and designated as a special team player who may enter the game at another position only upon the understanding that another International player is required to leave the game for that play.

The designated international term replaced the designated import term used prior to the 2014 CBA ratification. The number of DI positions also increased from three to four starting in 2014. More can be found on the designated international rule history in the FAQ.

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. Players place on the Disabled List do not count against the active roster or reserve list.
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.
Free Agent
A player not under contract to any team is a free agent and able to negotiate and sign a contract with any team he wishes.
Game Roster
See Active Roster.
Graduating Junior
A junior player who attains the age of 23 during the current calendar year.
Import (I, IMP)
The Import designation was replaced by the International designation with the introduction of the 2014 CBA. The deprecated, historical definition follows.
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.
CFLdb Razzle Dazzle has a one page graphic and explanation of CFL roster restrictions and definitions.
Injured List
Section 9F of the CFL By-laws define the six-game injured list, as amended in the CBA. Players placed on an injured list do not count against the active roster or reserve list.
The six-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.
The six-game injured list replaced the nine-game injured list with the adoption of the 2014 CBA.
International (I, INT)
Introduced with the ratification of the 2014 CBA, a International player is one who is not classified as a National player. There are a limited number of spots available for International players on a CFL roster.
The International designation replaces the Import designation used before 2014.
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.
National (N, NAT)
Introduced with the ratification of the 2014 CBA, a National player is one who:
(a) was a Canadian citizen at the time of signing his first contract,
(b) was classified as a non-import prior to May 31, 2014,
(c) or was physically resident in Canada for an aggregate period of five years prior to reaching the age of 18.
The National designation replaces the Non-import designation used before 2014.
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 international and national 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)
The Non-import designation was replaced by the National designation with the introduction of the 2014 CBA. The deprecated, historical definition follows.
Previously 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.
CFLdb Razzle Dazzle 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. Starting with contracts signed under the 2014 CBA, the option year only applies to players signing their first CFL contract. Veterans are not subject to contracts that require an option year.
Practice
Coaches run players through activities, exercises and game plays repeatedly and regularly during the week in order to maintain and improve the team’s proficiency. Teams are allowed 4.5 hours per day of practice and meeting time by the current collective bargaining agreement, and there are restrictions on practicing on certain days around games and travel. Practices are an opportunity to introduce new plays or focus on formations and plays that will be used to attack the weaknesses of the next opponent as determined by review of game film by the coaching staff. Up to one practice per week may be closed to the public and media to allow the development of “trick”, surprise or new plays and formations. In the CFL, after training camp, practices are unpadded, non-contact drills focused on building timing and muscle memory for games.
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 two players. Prior to 2014, the Reserve List consisted 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.
Rookie
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 Internationals. The roster size and classification limits are negotiated in the collective bargaining agreement with the Players’ Association.
Scratch, Healthy Scratch
Teams carry a 46-man active roster which must be declared 24 hours before game time. 1 hour before game time, teams must declare a 44-man game roster, meaning two players must be “scratched” and not dress for the game. Players may be scratched due to injury or for strategic reasons (coaches dressing more of one position and less of another position based on opponent). Players which are healthy enough to play but are scratched are called a “healthy scratch”, but this does not reflect on the player but the coaches decision to field the best team each week within the restrictions imposed.
Suspension List, Suspended 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. Players placed on the Suspended List do not count against the active roster or reserve list limits. Most commonly being placed on the suspended list is the result of a player not reporting to training camp or leaving the team/not attending practice during the season without team approval.
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.
Third String
Almost exclusively in reference to the quarterback, used to describe the third player (as noted, usually the QB) on the depth chart. The third string quarterback may run the short yardage offence for the team. In the past, the third quarterback was relegated to the role of holding a clipboard and charting plays, not seeing the field unless there were multiple injuries.
Waivers
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 under the current terms of the contract.
The order teams are given the opportunity to claim a player on waivers is called the waiver priority order and is the reverse order of the league standings from the previous year and various times during the season.
Walk-Through
A light practice workout the day before the game, where teams “walk-through” the common plays they will be executing in their next game. These are unpadded, non-contact exercises focused on reinforcing responsibilities and assignments of offensive, defensive and special team players so the game can be played by instinct without thinking.