Tuesday, August 5, 2008

MASH 4077 - CFL odds and ends

If you see Hawkeye Pierce or BJ Honeycutt on the Saskatchewan Roughrider sidelines, your eyes may not be playing tricks on you. Despite being the leagues only undefeated team, it's starting to look like MASH 4077 in Regina. As week 6 wrapped up in the CFL, many big names are now watching from the trainer's table.

At 6-0, last year's Grey Cup champions have opening day QB Marcus Crandell back under center. The former East Carolina star missed several games with a hamstring problem, but will he have anyone to throw to now that he's back? Injuries have hit the receivers, with Andy Fantuz the latest to go done with a broken left tibia, he's gone for 10 weeks. Thankfully, the Riders have the CFL's top rusher in Wes Cates; leading the league with 632 yards and 7 TD's. GM Eric Tillman is fully deserving of his recent contract extension; after losing Head Coach Kent Austin to U.S. College football and trading away last season's MVP and starting QB Kerry Joseph, many expected the Riders to stumble out of the gates. The team has rallied under new Head Coach Ken Miller and his staff. With one-third of the season gone, the Saskatchewan trainers and scouting staff are in the lead for this year's MVP award.

While in Montreal last week, an article by Herb Zurkowsky, July 30th in the Montreal Gazette caught my eye. The Alouettes 2005 first round pick, Matthieu Proulx, was supposed to start the season as Montreal's Safety, but injuries forced him to miss the first four games. He played week 5 against B.C., only to have his hamstring "pop" practising for week 6. After missing 20 games in the last three seasons, Proulx wondered in the Gazette, "I love football, but it seems football hates me." He went on to say, "I don't think I'm a bad guy. I think I'm a reasonable person. I'm doing all I can to be healthy. Maybe I just wasn't physically made to play this game." It's a shame that after an outstanding College career at Laval University, he was also the 2005 East Division's Outstanding Freshman, and now his career may be cut short.

That brings me to another Montreal story... I didn't have access to TSN for the Montreal/Hamilton game in week 6, so I listened on CJAD 800 AM; the Alouettes English radio home. I always enjoy sports events on AM radio, that late night crackle... but I must take issue with a comment regarding Tiger-Cats Running Back, Jesse Lumsden. After being questioned on TSN about being injury prone, Lumsden, who has never rushed for 100 yards against the Als; left the game in Montreal with an ankle injury. The commentators immediately referred to the TSN "injury prone" issue and basically said - there's your proof, he's hurt again. Well, in a sport where every hit is the equivalent to a minor car accident, I'm amazed more NFL and CFL players are not injured more often.

Lumsden was a star at MacMaster University, carrying the load for the Marauders and breaking Canadian University records along the way. For several seasons, he tried to catch on in the NFL with Seattle and Washington and didn't see any real game action. Now that he's the man in Hamilton, his body needs time to re-adjust to the regular pounding, week after week. Despite Hamilton's usual 1-5 record, Lumsden ranks 5th with 443 rushing yards and 5 TD's; those are not the statistics of a "soft" player. Ti-Cat teammate Tre Smith is number two in rushing with 528 yards and 4 TD's. That's a pretty formidable 1-2 punch.

Hamilton will need Lumsden and Smith, as former Kansas City Chief and B.C. Lion, Casey Printers continues to struggle as the starting QB. In six games, he's yet to throw a touchdown and he has a 75.3 QB rating. Compare that to Montreal's Anthony Calvillo's 16 TD's, 1979 yards passing and a QB rating of 108.1. If Montreal's defense played an entire 60 minutes, they would be 6-0 with Saskatchewan instead of having a mediocre 3-3 record.

Going into week 7, seven of the top ten Receivers are in the Western Division. Montreal's Kerry Watkins is one of the few Eastern players to crack the top 10. He caught Calvillo's 300th career TD pass versus Hamilton last week. Keep an eye on former Tulsa star and Winnipeg rookie, Romby Bryant. He is the only good news coming out of Winnipeg this season, leading the league with 580 receiving yards. The only other Bluebomber headline has been a cheerleader controversy; the cheerleader coach quit because of private photos that became public. At 1-5, new cheers won't improve the on-field product, maybe more front office changes are coming... Although, all the Bombers need to do is get past Hamilton in the East Division to make the playoffs, and as a Ti-Cat fan it hurts to say, but it won't be that hard to do. After a strong start, it looks like another 3 or 4 win season for my Cats... Have a great sports day everyone.

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