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Ex-CFL coach Marc Trestman: Players like Armstead, Vega can make transition to NFL

INDIANAPOLIS — When it comes to looking for under-the-radar talent, the Patriots went north of the border this offseason, landing defensive linemen Armond Armstead (of the Toronto Argonauts) and Jason Vega (of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers).

Armstead is a 6-foot-5, 300-pounder who was a three-year star for the Trojans in college. After a junior year spent at defensive end ‘€” where he had 43 tackles, six of which were for a loss (three sacks) ‘€” he was set to open his senior year at defensive tackle, but suffered a heart attack before his senior season and was never cleared to practice. As a result, he went undrafted, and ended up with Toronto of the Canadian Football League [1], where he led the 44 tackles and six sacks to help the Argonauts to a Grey Cup championship.

Vega, who stands 6-foot-4, 255 pounds, is a native of Brockton who played his college ball at Northeastern. The 25-year-old spent the past two seasons playing for the Blue Bombers, recording 66 tackles and 12 sacks. At Northeastern, Vega battled through injury issues (including a broken elbow) to record 137 tackles and 14 sacks in 41 games. He was not selected in the 2010 NFL draft [2]. (For more on their acquisition, check out this story [3] from last month.)

New Bears coach Marc Trestman — who was hired by Chicago after spending the last five seasons in the CFL with the Montreal Alouettes — talked Thursday morning at the scouting combine about the transition for players from the Canadian game to the NFL.

‘€œThere’€™s some players up there that have shown that they can play in the NFL,” Trestman said. “That’€™s been proven over time. There haven’€™t been many, but the guys who’€™ve shown up down here have done a pretty good job of fitting in. The players up there are very similar to the guys down here in terms of their character — they want to master their craft and be the best they can be. Some of them have had the opportunity south of the border and done well.

‘€œThese guys love football up there. They have dreams of wanting to do it down here. Those that can will give it a try; those that can’€™t have experienced a lot of exciting football up there.’€

In the end, Trestman said that football is football.

‘€œThere are multiple differences, obviously,” he added. “But just generally, the ‘€˜box’€™ is still the ‘€˜box,’€™ the blitzes you seen in the CFL are similar to the blitzes you see south of the border. The field is wider, it’€™s intelligently created, it’€™s a three-down league. The defensive line is a yard off the ball, the field is a mile long and a mile wide. And we’€™re playing with 12 and multiple motions.”