Why Isi Sofele was nearly claimed by the Tiger Cats

Practice Roster Move

Going into their Tuesday night game (that’s not a typo; the game actually is on Tuesday), plenty of roster stories and surprises have come up for the BC Lions and Toronto Argonauts.

With QB Ricky Ray nursing a knee injury, Zach Collaros will make his first CFL start for the Argos, continuing a trend in the CFL this week.

The Lions made a notable move of their own. They placed receiving yards leader Emmanuel Arceneaux on the one game injured list due to a sprained ankle and replaced him with Ernest Jackson, who will make his season debut.

But a move that may garner some attention was the Lions adding practice roster RB/KR Isi Sofele to the 46 man roster on Monday, though they seem to have no intention of playing him.

If there were nothing else to this move, it would look incredibly odd, given that the Lions already have plenty of kick returners and running backs on the roster already. Looking deeper, there is a method to the Lions’ madness.

According to Lowell Ullrich of The Province in his pregame take on the Lions and Argos, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats claimed Sofele off the practice roster, forcing the Lions to place Sofele on the active roster to avoid losing him.

Here are the basics of how this process works (via CFLDaily) using the example of the Lions claiming long snapper Jordan Matechuk from Saskatchewan a few weeks ago:

– The team that has the player originally may elect to place the claimed player on their 46-man active roster effective immediately. This would negate the claim and the player would remain with his current team.

– If the team elects to not move the player to the active roster…the player will be awarded to the claiming team.

So had the Lions left Sofele on the practice roster, the Tiger-Cats would have claimed him and would be forced to place him on their own 46 man roster.

Why Sofele?


Isi Sofele is the newest member of the Lions roster. (Photo:

The injured list for the Tiger-Cats has been well documented with players like Andy Fantuz, Dave Stala, and Dee Webb sidelined for much of the season and they had another key loss in their most recent game.

Explosive rookie RB/KR Lindsey Lamar was concussed in Saturday’s game against Saskatchewan and will likely be sidelined for at least a week.

Sofele would seemingly be a logical replacement. While he has yet to play in a CFL game, he showed promise in the preseason and has a similar running style to Lamar.

They’re both small in stature but are very elusive and capable of breaking off big running plays and kick returns.

Also, they likely (wrongly) assumed that the Lions would simply let Sofele go considering he was only a practice roster guy. The Lions stood their ground and the Tiger-Cats will have to look elsewhere to replace Lamar.

Why The Lions Aren’t Happy

Ullrich also mentions in the video that the Lions are not too pleased with Hamilton for making this move and it is not totally clear why.


No more practice squad duty. (Photo: Google)

From an outside perspective, Hamilton seems to have done this deal by the book simply in an attempt to improve their football team, though it’s only those who are directly involved in this process who would know for sure.

Besides, as I mentioned earlier, BC did the exact same thing to Saskatchewan, so I’m sure they understand that the Tiger-Cats are well within their rights to make this move.

It’s likely that the Lions are upset because of the timing of the deal more than anything.

The fact that the move came just a little over 24 hours before this week’s game is a little fishy, though I doubt they’d intentionally sabotage BC when they’re playing against Hamilton’s division rival.

I’m sure that they don’t like being forced to use a roster spot on a different player than originally intended.

Bottom Line

There’s a good chance that neither team will discuss this move at great length. Compare it to an NHL trade that falls through.

Is a team going to publicly speak out about the player they failed to acquire or the one they didn’t let go?

Regardless of what becomes known about this move in the coming days, if anything, it should at least add a more fire to the BC-Hamilton rivalry.

And if this move does nothing else for you, consider this: To go to that length just to keep a guy on the practice roster shows how much the organization thinks of Sofele.

Wally Buono has proven in the past that he’s not afraid to shed players that have nothing to offer the Lions anymore. If they are right about Sofele, he may turn out to be an important player for the Lions in the not too distant future.


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