TORONTO — The CFL Players’ Association informed the CFL on Wednesday night it’s grieving the two-game suspension handed down by the league to Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker Simoni Lawrence.
That means Lawrence will be eligible to continue playing until an arbitration hearing is held. The Ticats visit the Toronto Argonauts on Saturday afternoon.
The league suspended Lawrence on Monday for hitting Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Zach Collaros in the head during the league’s regular-season opener last week.
A scrambling Collaros left the game at Tim Hortons Field after the hit in the first quarter. Collaros missed four regular-season games and the West Division semifinal last season with a concussion.
Lawrence received a 25-yard roughing-the-passer penalty — one of three flags Hamilton took on Saskatchewan’s opening drive — as the Ticats went on to win 23-17.
"The CFL is deeply disappointed that the CFLPA has decided to contest the league’s attempt to punish and deter a dangerous play," commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a statement. "We should embrace a shared responsibility to do all we can to punish and deter any play that crosses the line.
"It is disappointing that the union has decided to use a legal process, at considerable time and expense, to defend an offending player instead of standing up for the player hurt on the play. Let’s use that time and money to instead work together on new ways to promote and protect all players’ safety."
The Riders placed Collaros on the six-game injured list Sunday. Veteran Cody Fajardo will start Thursday night when Saskatchewan visits the Ottawa Redblacks.
After the game, a repentant Lawrence said he didn’t mean to hurt his former teammate. Collaros spent four seasons in Hamilton (2014-17) before being traded to Saskatchewan in January 2018.
"He was running full speed, I was running full speed and then he slid last second and I just couldn’t pull up," said Lawrence, a three-time CFL East all-star. "It wasn’t intentional at all … I feel bad about it because I actually care about Zach.
"As a defensive player you play at a high level … it’s hard to say, ‘Go make a play and pull up if the guy slides at the last second.’ In slow motion it might look like it’s easy but when the bullets are flying it’s tough. I’m apologetic and I’m going to try to do a better job to not do that."
It marked the first time Lawrence has received supplementary discipline from the CFL since coming into the league in 2012.
Riders head coach Craig Dickenson said the suspension seemed fair.
"Whatever they decide, I support," he said. "It seems like a fair result of what happened."
Dickenson said it is very difficult to judge a player’s intent.
"I felt like the hit was violent and against the rules," he said. "The league decided to suspend him two games, and I support what the league decides on it."