Canadians in the NFL are an anomaly to many Canadian football fans. But over the past few years, the number of Canadians in the NFL has grown rapidly. Players like Orlando Franklin, Tyrone Crawford, Shaun Suisham and Luke Willson have become well-known names across the country.
While they may only represent a fraction of the NFL’s players, they do represent a quickly growing list of Canadians making their way into the NFL. With training camps in full swing now, here is a list of how every Canadian player is doing so far. We will take a look at players from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Ontario as a whole and the rest of Canada.
Players from Toronto and the GTA:
Orlando Franklin, G, Denver Broncos (Toronto, Ontario)
After a fantastic season that ended in the Super Bowl last year, Broncos guard Orlando Franklin looks to pick up right where he left off. But instead of playing on the edge as a tackle, the Broncos have moved Franklin to left guard this training camp. The move to guard is expected to help bolster the Broncos’ running game this season.
Franklin has not played guard since his junior year in college, but he has welcomed the challenge and wants to help the team in any way possible. While Franklin adjusts to his new position, he seems to have made a smooth transition to the commercial scene, as he made a cameo appearance on the Manning brothers’ new fantasy football commercial.
Brent Urban, DE, Baltimore Ravens (Mississauga, Ontario)
Drafted in the fourth round of this years NFL draft, the Baltimore Ravens had high hopes for Urban as a rotational player along the defensive line. His fantastic length and ability to play 5-technique had Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees very excited about the Canadians future. Urban was off to a strong start at Ravens camp, but a torn ACL ended Urban’s training camp early, and likely his season as well.
Jamaal Westerman, DE/LB, Cleveland Browns (Brampton, Ontario)
After spending most of last season with the Buffalo Bills, the former Brampton high school (Notre Dame) standout signed on with the Cleveland Browns just before training camp started. The move to Cleveland reunites Westerman with former defensive coordinator (now head coach) Mike Pettine. Although Westerman was brought on as what many consider to be a “depth signing,” he had a great first pre-season game and looks poised to make a contribution on special teams, as well as off the edge for the Browns.
Colin Cole, DT, Carolina Panthers (Toronto, Ontario)
Playing on one of the NFL’s best defensive fronts, Cole is part of a four-man rotation that helps set the tone for the Carolina Panthers. Known as the self-anointed “middle monster,” Cole has made a living holding down the A-gap and penetrating into the opposing team’s backfield. Although Cole is no stranger to training camp as he enters his tenth NFL season, this year’s training camp has him in the spotlight as he set a lofty goal, saying he thinks the Panthers can break the NFL single season sack record this year.
Dec 8, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Stefan Charles (96) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Buffalo Bills 27-6. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Stefan Charles, DT, Buffalo Bills (Oshawa, Ontario)
Entering his second season with the Buffalo Bills, Charles has quietly made his presence felt along the Buffalo Bills’ defensive line. At 6-5, 323 pounds, Charles is a powerful man who can more than hold his own in the trenches. Charles is difficult to block and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has been very impressed with Charles performance at camp so far.
By the sounds of things so far, the team sees Charles as part of their defensive line rotation going forward. Charles will more than likely continue to be used in run stopping scenarios, but if he can clean up his technique at camp, his role could easily increase for the Bills.
Austin Collie, WR, Free Agent (Hamilton, Ontario)
Collie played in seven games for the New England Patriots last season, but was not re-signed after the season. Since then, Collie tried out for the Washington Redskins in April, but nothing came from it.
At 29-years old, Collie’s career has been hampered by knee and head injuries, really preventing him from achieving his full potential. Although the injuries will always scare teams of Collie, the crafty BYU receiver still knows how to get open.
Philip Blake, C, Free Agent (Toronto, Ontario)
Philip Blake is under contract with the Arizona Cardinals on their practice squad. Last year, Blake spent most of his season on the practice squad injured reserve with a leg injury. Blake has been serviceable, but projects to be a practice player in 2014 again.
Players from the Rest of Ontario:
Shaun Suisham, K, Pittsburgh Steelers (Wallaceburg, Ontario)
Shaun Suisham has bounced around the league a bit before finding success with the Pittsburgh Steelers, as the former Ottawa Renegade played for four different teams in five seasons, before signing with Pittsburgh.
While Suisham’s journey in the NFL has been an adventurous one, he has become a model of consistency over the last two seasons in Pittsburgh. Over the last two years, Suisham has made 92% of his kicks, making 58 of his 63 field goal attempts. After posting career highs across the board last year, the Steelers rewarded Suisham this off-season with a brand new four-year deal.
During this year’s training camp, Suisham has picked up right where he left off, nailing three of his four field goal attempts in the Steelers first pre-season game. Albeit Susisham did miss a field goal, it was not by much, as he hit the right upright.
Even though the life of a kicker can be volatile in the NFL, Suisham’s recent success has earned him a permanent home with the black and gold. Suisham’s new deal runs until he is 36-years old, more than likely allowing him to retire as a Steeler.
Nov 22, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford (70) before a play during the game against the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving at Cowboys Stadium. The Redskins beat the Cowboys 38-31. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tyrone Crawford, DT, Dallas Cowboys (Windsor, Ontario)
Entering his second season with the Dallas Cowboys last year, Tyrone Crawford was expected to take on a larger role along the Dallas defensive line. Unfortunately for Crawford, a torn Achilles early on in camp would derail his chances of making an impact in Big D.
Fully recovered this off-season, Crawford looks primed to make an impact along the Cowboys defensive line. At 6-4, 285 pounds, Crawford is a versatile defensive linemen who can play in different spots for Dallas. Crawford can play three technique very effectively, or he can even slide out to five technique and set the edge.
This kind of versatility has the Cowboys very excited for Crawford in 2014. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo took some time on 105.3 “the Fan” to share his thoughts on Crawford this year. “I think Tyrone Crawford’s going to be a guy that’ll be shocking to a lot of people, and I think if we’d had had him last year, it’d been a very different defensive unit that we would have had,” said Romo.
With high praise from quarterback Tony Romo, Crawford appears to be on the cusp of his “coming out” season.
Luke Willson, TE, Seattle Seahawks (LaSalle, Ontario)
During his rookie season, Luke Willson hauled in 20 receptions, for 272 yards and a touchdown. While those numbers won’t blow you away, Willson did manage to contribute to the Seahawks in a variety of ways, like the run game.
Entering the 2014 season, the Seahawks have much higher expectations of Willson, as the team has made it clear that they plan on using Willson much more this year. With Willson’s role expanding this year, could we see another Canadian breakout this year?
Cory Greenwood, LB, Free Agent (Kingston, Ontario)
After spending three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs mainly as a special teams player, Greenwood signed a deal with the Detroit Lions in 2013. Unfortunately for the former Concordia Stinger, injuries would plague him last season, eventually leading to his release from the Lions earlier this month.
Greenwood remains a free agent in the NFL, but the Toronto Argonauts do own his CFL rights, allowing them to have the first shot at signing Greenwood.
Vaughn Martin, DT, Free Agent (Born in Jamaica, raised in Windsor, Ontario)
After a standout career at the University of Western, Vaughn Martin was the first ever Canadian player to be drafted as an underclassmen. During five NFL seasons, Martin was used mostly as a rotational player, posting a career high 47 tackles in 2011 for the San Diego Chargers.
Since then, Martin has played for the Chargers and Miami Dolphins, but has not been able to stay on either team. The Detroit Lions signed Martin this off-season, but would eventually release the former Western Mustang.
Although the Montreal Alouettes have the rights to Vaughn Martin, it seems more likely that Martin will wait to be picked up by another NFL team. At 28-years-old, Martin still has a few good years left in him.
Austin Pasztor, RT, Jacksonville Jaguars (Langton, ON)
Pasztor put together an above average season for the Jaguars last year, starting 12 of the 15 games he played in. While the Jaguars as a team did not have much success last year, Pasztor impressed the Jaguars, earning himself a one-year extension this off-season.
As Pasztor continued to improve throughout training camp this season, he suffered a hand injury in the team’s second pre-season game. Hopefully, it is not serious, but initial reports have indicated that Pasztor may have suffered a broken hand.
Dec 22, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks punter Jon Ryan (9) kicks a punt against the Arizona Cardinals during the third quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
List of Players in NFL Training Camp from the rest of Canada:
Jon Ryan, P, Seattle Seahawks (Regina, Saskatchewan)
Nate Burleson, WR, Cleveland Browns (Calgary, Alberta)
Israel Idonije, DT, New York Giants (Born in Lagos, Nigeria, raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, G, Kansas City Chiefs (Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Quebec)
John Urschel, G, Baltimore Ravens (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
L.P. Ladouceur, LS, Dallas Cowboys (Montreal, Quebec)
Andy Mulumba, LB, Green Bay Packers (Born in Luputa, Congo, raised in Montreal, Quebec)
T.J. Jones, WR, Detroit Lions (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Danny Watkins, G, Free Agent (Kelowna, British Columbia)
Bo Lokombo, LB, Free Agent, (Born in Kinshasa, Congo, raised in Abbotsford, British Columbia)
Stay tuned throughout the season, as I will keep you up-to-date with how the Canadian players in the NFL are doing.