Milton: Gable leaves hole in the locker room but not on the roster

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.

Steve Milton

Steve Milton

Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.
Steve Milton
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Steve Milton
About Steve Milton (100 Articles)
Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.

20 Comments on Milton: Gable leaves hole in the locker room but not on the roster

  1. Who ever said that Gable was the league’s best blocking back?

    • Lancaster/Reed // October 2, 2017 at 6:21 pm //

      Who said gable was the leagues best blocking back? Steve milton did, just now. Not sure anyone else has ever said it though.

      • Austin always has.

        • Chopper11 // October 2, 2017 at 8:05 pm //

          CJ is the best blocking back in the league since he’s been with the Cats. It has been clear any time he was not in the line up. If you don’t follow he Cats, you won’t know this. If you think there is a better blocking back in the CFL, name him, however, not many offences utilized it as much as Tommy Condell’s offence, which has been the system since Gable has been here.

    • Who says he isn’t?

    • CFLs Best since 1990 // October 2, 2017 at 8:07 pm //

      I asked myself same question when I saw all these references to that point. I’d never heard it before. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention.

  2. Austin said he loves Gable but when he was Head Coach he refused to give him the ball.

    Then he said “where they want to go, Alex is a good fit”. Maybe I’m reading too much between the lines but Austin refers to the current coaching staff as “they” instead of “we”. I wouldn’t be shocked if Austin steps down at the end of the year. His Head Coach ego is more than a little bruised.

  3. Peter Griffin // October 2, 2017 at 6:47 pm //

    Best wishes to CJ as he moves on. Always a big fan. Always wished he would have gotten the ball more, instead of blocking all the time. Now he can do his play making from the Eskies’ backfield. I’m sure his Ticat team mates miss him already, but nothing is for ever in professional football. Look forward to seeing him “do his thing” with the Eskies.

  4. Tiger Chick // October 2, 2017 at 6:59 pm //

    Sometimes its not all about the business its about the players morale in the locker room and the fan base. When they had the tribute to the guys of 67 some of those cats played for years on the team. The cats have gotten the revolving door mentality of late, we keep churning out and trading instead of sticking with what we have and learning to gel and develop. One season or half a season for some gives no chance for a team to develop. Thanks C.J.. Great guy, good team spirit, much like Dyakowski, Chick and all the others we see on the flip side. Need a change at the top!

    • Most of the revolving door was player driven as they all want as much free agency as possible to get as much money as they can – I’m sure the teams would love to see more 5 year contracts and fewer one and done contracts.

  5. CJ was not always consistent . When he was on his game, he was great but in the last few years, he seemed to slow down a bit, that is until Saturday night. It is good to pick up assets and give CJ a chance to go to the Grey Cup. Appears to me that he played Saturday night in place of Green only to be “showcased” to show that he is not injured and could be a valuable asset to another team and hence today’s deal? Collaros comments are interesting when he states that “CJ went out with a bang” as I would think that Collaros would want to do the same thing. I say it again., I do not understand the Ticat reluctance to play Collaros unless they are preserving him from injury prior to the CFL trade deadline but he has now had six weeks of rest and I would think with the dollars they are paying him, that he should be on the field?

    • The rankings that came out today actually have Edmonton lower rated than Hamilton – he may have had a better chance of going to the Grey Cup here than the sinking ship in Edmonton. I feel for John Chick as well – he has not been on the winning end of game this year – lost all in Hamilton and lost all in Edmonton since being traded.

  6. CJ was a good RB if there was an opening and only after he got through the line… my issue with him was that he couldn’t bull his way through the line to make those critical 2 yards for 1st down… we had endless failures to gain 1st down when CJ was stuffed at the line… not sure it wasn’t from lack of blocking but a power back should be able to smash through the line… I expect Green will be better at this…

  7. CFLs Best since 1990 // October 2, 2017 at 8:11 pm //

    Alex Green is a better back. In fact, I was quite impressed with him, while always feeling Gable was overrated for his flashy plays, while his failures seemed to be disregarded. If I were Austin, I’d have made that trade in a heartbeat.

    Hamilton is better today and tomorrow, while Edmonton is ever so slightly improved for the short-term and that’s about it.

    • Green has had one monster game, and a decent camp after which he was released. I think he’s talented, but it remains to be seen if he’s better. Things have changed though, and he and Scheuerman are now going to line up in an offense that is more oriented to rushing behind an O-line that has been blocking very well for the run game, so it’s going to be hard to compare based on this season alone.

      I think Edmonton will benefit if Gable stays healthy, and Hamilton will be just fine with the running backs it has both this season and next. But CJ was a great player when he was on the top of his game and being utilized effectively, and he’ll be missed.

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