He was the starter for nearly as long as the franchise record-holder was and longer than the last tailback to take the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to the Grey Cup championship.
So for some veteran players that wasn’t just an empty locker in the Ticat lair Monday morning. It was more like a missing organ.
C.J. Gable, considered the best blocking back in the Canadian Football League and a pretty good runner too — he pierced the Argonauts for 157 yards Saturday night – was traded to Edmonton for two players on the Eskimos’ negotiation list.
That leaves Alex Green, who’d rushed for 140 yards against B.C. the week before Gable went bonkers against Toronto, as the starting running back backed up by versatile Ross Scheuerman, the second-year Ticat who started three games earlier in the year.
Gable has been here since 2013, Kent Austin’s first year in town. His nearly-five years in Hamilton just about matched what career rushing yards record holder Troy Davis put in here at the start of the 21st century. He was traded, to Edmonton, on Oct. 5 of his fifth year. Gable played one more year here than the tenure of Ron Williams, the running back when the Ticats won the 1999 Grey Cup. Williams was released and he, too, ended up next in Edmonton.
The talented Gable was the East Division rookie of the year in 2013, and an East all-star that season and last year, but overall had trouble staying on the field because of injury. He played only 12 of the team’s 36 league games during the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
He was benched earlier this year in favour of Scheuerman, but even after Green ran for 140 yards against the Lions in his only start, Gable returned from injury to reclaim the starter’s role against Toronto, and subsequently ran wild.
“I love C.J.,” said vice president of football operations Kent Austin, who pulled the trigger on the deal that had been in his sights for a few days. “He’s been a really good player for us and he’ll be a really good player for them. We’re heavy in that position, with really good players. Where they want to go offensively, Alex is a good fit.”
He also said that contract term was among the minor considerations: Green is signed through next year, while Gable becomes a free agent this winter.
Austin wouldn’t identify the two negotiation list players who come this way in return for Gable – once again raising the proposal, a good one, that the CFL’s neg lists should be made public – but said they would help in a position important to the team. That suggests offensive tackles, as has been mentioned on Twitter or, secondarily, (pardon the wretched pun) defensive backs.
Ticats who have been here as long, or nearly as long, as Gable were stunned by the news delivered to them at the Monday morning team meeting. Some had seen Gable earlier in the locker room, but didn’t know about the deal.
“I shed a tear, I really did,” said Brandon “Speedy” Banks. “It hurt me; he’s been here the whole time I’ve been here, I know how hard he works, how he wanted to be an every-down back. It’s better for him, but for him to be out of this locker room, the kind of guy he is, I’m hurt.
“We know it’s a business, so it hurts guys individually, but not the team. We believe in next man up.”
Zach Collaros the designated starter from 2014 until he was relegated to Jeremiah Masoli’s backup with Jones’ arrival for Labour Day, said, “I’m happy for C.J. Obviously he went out of here with a bang. He probably had more carries in that last game than he has had his whole time here. He’s always done a great job for us. We’ve asked him to do more in pass protecting than running the ball. Any time a team trades for you, it’s pretty clear they want you to be there and Edmonton definitely puts an emphasis on the run game.”
Centre Mike Filer, a Ticat since 2012 said, “It was a shock to see him go considering he had a great performance last week, 157 yards. We’ll miss him. I don’t think that it hurts the team – in our eyes they’re up there doing what’s best for the team – but obviously he was a valuable player.
NOTES: Defensive back Demond Washington will be out for four to six weeks with an upper-body injury . . . Ted Laurent, out since mid-August, did some light practicing Monday . . . .CJ Gable turns 30 in two weeks. Alex Green is six months younger . . . in 51 games in five years, Gable had 407 carries for 2,371 yards and 17 touchdowns. He had eight majors from his 147 catches and 1,497 receiving yards.
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