Never a dull moment in Alouettes Nation, that’s for sure.
A week that was jam-packed with drama, in-fighting and uncertainly had led to more wondering just what the hell is going on with the Montreal Alouettes. For years, this was THE model franchise of the Canadian Football League; Winning season after winning season, a trip to the Grey Cup a foregone conclusion and a front office that kept the war chest practically brimming with talent and depth for days on end.
Nowadays, it’s the complete opposite. Before you now lies a team that has become a complete laughingstock and the butt of many jokes throughout the league. No one here is happy be it admin people, coaches, players and even fans are just sniping at one another and no one seems to have a concrete answer on how to fix what is wrong with this once glorious organization.
Because the past few weeks, months and even years weren’t filled with enough malaise, this past week at practice saw the new starting quarterback become unhinged and lash out at anyone with the misfortune of being in his direction. All this before his team rolls into Hamilton on Friday to take on the Tiger-Cats at Tim Hortons Field.
This past Sunday, veteran QB Kevin Glenn was shipped off to Winnipeg and the work done against BC was enough for Jim Popp to hand the keys to the car over to second year QB Rakeem Cato permanently. Whether it was the pressure of being the man to lead this team or the simmering frustration of being on a 3-8 team whose playoff hopes are hanging by a thread, Cato was in no mood to be trifled with.
After getting into a shoving match with Duron Carter the week before, Cato decided that he wasn’t having anymore nonsense with anyone who wasn’t on the same page as him. That meant that when Kenny Stafford didn’t perform as Cato expected, tempers started to flare. Cato was removed from the field and when he returned, things got physical with both Stafford and Carter, who in this case wasn’t even trying to provoke Cato and was caught in the crossfire.
After practice, Cato said that he felt disrespected by his peers and he wasn’t going to stand for it. For their part, Carter and Stafford played off the whole incident as just the competitive fire that burns in all athletes that hate losing. But these feelings of resentment stayed inside Cato as he would not associate with his receivers when not on the field.
This was a major turn of face from the normally quiet and reserved Cato. To see him go off on Carter the week before and now Stafford (who just happens to be Duron’s cousin) is certainly a telling sign. While Carter can seemingly do no right when it comes to how he is perceived by many people, these incidents are only adding to the hate that the talented receiver has endured since making his return to the CFL.
But the quarterback is supposed to be the leader of a football team and coming off as a loose cannon isn’t a good look for Rakeem either. Even the team walk-through at Tim Hortons Field was another explosive event for this quarterback as he lost his temper with a reporter and stormed away, seemingly tired of answering the same questions over and over again.
The series of events that unfolded this week is certainly testing the faith of the Alouettes fan base, while detractors and practically everyone else are having a field day as this once-proud football team looks to be circling the drain yet again due to off-field shenanigans.
It was revealed by Cato that a very good friend of his was murdered this week in Miami, so that can certainly explain his short fuse. Couple that with the team’s play as of late and now being thrust into the leadership role and Cato’s inner strength is being tested like never before.
This can often be what makes or breaks a man; either we will see Cato self-destruct or it will steel him and he will rise above it all to lead this team to its fourth victory. The Alouettes are clearly hoping for the latter, as they face a Hamilton team that has looked less than spectacular even with the return of their heralded signal-caller Zach Collaros.
It’s a short week for the Tabbies as they were humbled in the Labour Day rematch this past Sunday by the Toronto Argonauts at BMO Field. And they haven’t enjoyed much of a home field advantage, only playing in Hamilton 4 times and posting a 2-2 record. They will want to come out hot and stifle the Alouettes early.
Collaros will be airing it out against this Alouettes secondary, as C.J. Gable will be out with an injury. But usual Alouettes punching bag Ethan Davis will be sitting out this week in favour of Ramon Taylor, who has done well in his backup role and will be playing boundary corner with Jovon Johnson by his side. With both Greg Henderson and Jonathon Mincy playing very well in recent weeks, they will want to prove themselves against Hamilton’s dangerous receiving corps.
The key for Montreal will be the play of this now new-look offense; I personally don’t care if Rakeem Cato is BFFs with his receivers or not. They don’t need to go out for ice cream after the game to prove they can work well together. EVERYONE on this offense just needs to check their pride at the door and do their jobs.
Last week, we saw that this team can come together and be cohesive in BC despite a losing effort. If Montreal can play with a united front against this Hamilton team, they can very well stun everyone that has completely written them off.
Trading Kevin Glenn set off a week of fury for the Birds of Prey. All the extra-curricular action that ensued on the practice field certainly put the Alouettes in the spotlight, even if it was for the wrong reasons.
Like it or not, it’s Rakeem Cato time. And he WILL have to find Duron Carter for touchdowns. This game on Friday will either be the Alouettes’ greatest win or most brutal loss of 2016. Either way, it doesn’t look to be a boring affair in the Hammer.
Enjoy the game, regardless of where you watch it.