This is a bye week that Alouettes Nation won’t likely forget, much in all as they’d like to.
It would appear that the last game versus the Ottawa RedBlacks truly took its toll on both teams. The Redblacks won the battle, but it came at a heavy price for them in losing several players to injury. Montreal literally limped into this bye week, suffering numerous injuries and also having one of their stars be at the forefront of the CFL’s headline news, for all the wrong reasons.
Love him or hate him, Duron Carter is a superstar in this league. There’s no denying his talents and his ability to play in this league. But after scoring his touchdown two Thursdays ago, the ensuing madness cast a pall on both teams involved. Carter had taken a wicked headshot from Ottawa’s Jermaine Robinson on the touchdown and one can’t help but wonder if Duron was in a concussion haze as he ambled towards Ottawa’s bench.
In doing so he bumped into RedBlacks head coach Rick Campbell, who fell to the ground in an awkward fashion that came across a bit too choreographed. It’s been discussed to death many times already so I won’t beat this particular dead horse any further. Carter should have tried to avoid the opposing bench. His teammates should have been watching for him immediately. Campbell should have been firmly behind the white lines instead of on the actual playing field. Both teams should not share a sideline. Lather, rinse, repeat.
As a result of the melee that followed when Ottawa’s Jerrell Gavins threw a punch to the back of Carter’s head, the league came down on the numerous participants. Carter has been suspended one game while Campbell and several RedBlacks players have been fined for their actions. Already the appeal process has started for Duron and he is also undergoing concussion protocol. Regardless of what the outcome would have been, it all took away from what could have been a great game and the start of a budding rivalry.
Now it appears that this will be all anyone will want to talk about when these two teams face off again later this season. A lot of Alouettes fans have derided Duron’s behaviour, predicting that he would become a diva because he signed for a hefty payday earlier this season. I personally don’t understand that sentiment; why do fans expect all the import players to be the aw-shucks type who’d only be too happy to risk their long-term health for the relative peanuts this league pays its non-Canadian players?
Here’s a newsflash, folks: These guys don’t have an attitude, they have a PERSONALITY. If they play like a million bucks, maybe in their head they deserve a million bucks. And being just a little bit interesting doesn’t make anyone a diva. If you have a problem with an import player making a decent salary and showing just a teaspoon’s worth of personality then perhaps you best stick to watching hockey, where white-bread kids from rural Canada um and ah and y’know their way through an interview.
I really shouldn’t be surpised by this fan mindset. After all this IS Montreal, where it’s hockey team traded away THEIR version of Duron Carter in exchange for the type of hockey player that I mentioned in the last paragraph. At least Duron hasn’t donated any money to a hospital in La Belle Province.
Injuries are a part of football. You can’t prevent them from happening, but you can prepare for what to do when your team gets bit by the injury big. As a result of this last game, we are about to see the depth of this team’s roster.
The Alouettes took some major hits to the roster, losing S.J. Green, Tyrell Sutton and Kenny Stafford due to various injuries. All three landed on the six-game injured list and worse still Green’s 2016 campaign is now finished, having torn every single cruciate ligament there is in his knee. For an Alouettes team looking for redemption on offense, this is an incredible blow to withstand.
There are few words that can properly express the impact of losing a player of S.J.’s caliber. He is a leader and his penchant for making absolutely ridiculous catches is without equal. ACL injuries are not the career-ender they were 20 years ago, but they will always be a cause for concern. Jamel Richardson was a superstar in this league when he tore up his ACL and was never the same. Yet Adrian Peterson of the NFL tore his and came back almost stronger than ever.
So whether this marks the end of S.J. Green in the CFL remains to be seen. Personally, I have seen the hard work S.J. puts in day in and day out. I have no doubt that he will come back from this setback stronger than ever. This league needs a talent like his. I just hope that whomever repairs his knee is truly a miracle worker and gives this team back its offensive leader, good as new.
Losing Sutton and Stafford are also major blows, as they are bonafide playmakers for this Montreal team. Both have been leaders in 2015 for their respective squads and both are budding superstars in the making. I have every confidence that this too will be just a minor setback for them and they will come back in plenty of time to help Montreal compete in what is looking like an Eastern division rife with parity.
So who will assume the roles of these stars? It’s next to impossible to simply replace them, but this Alouettes team does have some depth to it. You can harp on Jim Popp‘s seeming mismanagement of the team’s salary cap all you want but at the end of the day, his nose for sniffing out talent in the unlikeliest of places is still among the league’s elite. Let’s take a look at the next men up for the Birds of Prey:
Brandon Rutley: It’s easy to overlook this young man when you see Sutton tear it up in the Alouettes backfield. But Rutley is no slouch, able to turn on the jets at a moment’s notice. While a bit lighter than Sutton, Rutley is also not afraid to lower his shoulder and truck some defenders to gain a few extra yards. I can see Brandon having a few breakout games and being a versatile weapon for Kevin Glenn to use.
B.J. Cunningham: Last year, this former Michigan State Spartan made a name for himself late in the season with some jaw-dropping catches. Cut from the same cloth as Duron Carter and Kenny Stafford, Cunningham will flourish lining up alongside Nik Lewis and Sam Giguere. B.J. has all the gifts that S.J. has and can really make the most of this opportunity. When Carter comes back from his suspension, he and Cunningham will be a very deadly duo for the Birds of Prey.
Both Rutley and Cunningham are already part of the active roster. Who will be called up from the practice squad? Here’s some names to watch for:
Chandler Jones: This youngster was on the practice roster last year and in my opinion, played well enough in camp this season to warrant a full-time gig. But the dearth of talent that was already in place meant that yet again, Jones would have to bide his time on the taxi squad. Now he will surely get a chance to shine. His route-running is spot on and he too has the ability to make some tremendous catches in traffic. His size may be a slight concern at 5’8, BUT I do recall another vertically challenged route-runner that just needed one chance to shine in this league. (Hint: his jersey is being retired by the Als on July 29th)
Corbin Louks: This guy came literally out of nowhere to join the Alouettes in training camp and was a beacon of light, making outstanding plays and standing out among some of the best receivers this league has to offer. A former QB turned receiver, Louks was a standout in Utah and gave this Alouettes coaching staff a lot to consider on cut-down day. Much like Duron Carter in 2013, he can benefit from the suddenly free roster spot made available due to injury. I fully expect Louks to be given every opportunity to play each down.
Cam McDaniel: Rutley is now the starting tailback for the Als, but I expect this former Fighting Irish star to get a lot of touches in Anthony Calvillo‘s offense. In both 2016 pre-season games, McDaniel played outstanding football. His speed on the ground was remarkable and he even tried his hand at returning punts for Montreal. In addition to all his budding talent, he’s very much the kind of player that these Alouettes fans want to cheer for; quiet, humble and hard-working. This injury to Sutton will be just what McDaniel needs to make his name known in this league.
Mikhail Davidson: He didn’t have the greatest training camp and wound up being released, but young Mikhail’s potential couldn’t be denied as he was invited back to the practice roster. Now with these injuries, he too may get the chance to redeem himself for Montreal. The former Carabin knows how to win and I still see a lot of Ben Cahoon in this young talent. Davidson also has the right passport, so if Calvillo and his staff can properly nurture this young National player, he too can potentially surprise everyone who wrote him off earlier this season.
In addition to these names, the Alouettes have also added former NFL standout Jacoby Ford to the practice roster yesterday. He was a late cut from the Eskimos training camp roster and he also has to have a chip on his shoulder. Much like Vernon Adams, his size prevented him from being a true force down south but Ford should truly shine in the CFL if given the chance.
Ford had blistering speed in college and was a viable threat in the NFL as a returner. He’s got competition in the aforementioned players above, but he will get a chance to make a mark for himself as a result of these injuries. No matter who the player is, you best be ready when your number is called.
This week of preparation will be a crucial one for the Alouettes, as they prepare to defend the nest against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats next Friday. They are currently smarting from back-to-back defeats that no one could have predicted so early on in the season. I promise that despite that, the Alouettes are not taking this team lightly. They will prepare for the Cats this week at Stade Hebert and you are welcome to come check it out.
It’s been a rough week for Alouettes Nation, losing stars left and right. But the best way to support your team is not to give up so soon on this season. This team needs your backing like never before. And you just never know when the next great superstar of this league will emerge!
I’ll be back later this week for a game preview of next Friday’s tilt. Be sure to follow along on Twitter for more news and thoughts and don’t forget to also check out the next edition of the Alouettes FlightDeck with myself and Tim Capper next week.
As always, keep the faith Alouettes Nation! This football season is FAR from over.