The Hamilton Tiger-Cats may be out of playoff contention but head coach June Jones isn’t quite ready to give up on 2017.
Jones says he’ll continue to field what he believes to be the most competitive line up in an attempt to win the final three games, including quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who will start Sunday against Montreal. Veterans like defensive tackle Ted Laurent, linebacker Simoni Lawrence and receiver Luke Tasker were all in their usual spots at practice on Wednesday.
“I’m here to coach them to win and teach them how to win and that’s what we’re going to do,” Jones said. “We’re going to play the best guys who give us the best chance to win the game. I think I owe that to the players that are here.”
Masoli, who has started the last seven games after replacing Zach Collaros, is set to become a free agent next February. That’s led to some speculation that Collaros, who does have a deal in place for 2018, could get some playing time. But Jones says he’ll stick with Masoli, who is 4-3 since taking over.
“I know Zach can play, I see it every day. If he helps us to win the game, then he’s going to play but until then we’re going to stay the way we are,” Jones said. “Jeremiah has not done anything to be dislodged from that position.”
Jones, who took over when the team was 0-8 and led them back to some semblance of playoff contention, says he would like to return next season and that winning the remaining games is the best way for him to make that case. His fate won’t be decided until after the season and may be depend on what changes – if any – the Ticats make in the front office.
“I’m evaluated on how many I win so it benefits me to win,” he said.
Masoli acknowledged that not having a long-term goal to play for will be different but said there’s plenty of motivation in the games themselves.
“The pure competitors in us, we want to win,” he said. “We’re all going to be playing with a chip on our shoulder because we’re out of it as far as the playoffs go but we still want to show that we’re one of, if not the, best team in the league.”
With Jones’ status for next season still undetermined, Masoli said the team is playing hard for him as well.
“I think he’s proven without a doubt how good of a coach he is. In his short term here he’s pretty much turned the team around,” he said. “I think I speak for everyone here when I say that we would all endorse coach June for a job.”
“We’ve been trying to win, not just for ourselves, but for the new coach that brought that culture here.”
Notes: The Ticats have frozen renewal prices for current season ticket holders, meaning 2018 season seats will cost the same as they did in 2017… national offensive lineman Mike Filer, American receiver Jalen Saunders and international defensive end Adrian Tracy did not practice on Wednesday due to injury… The team added international running back Rajion Neal and offensive lineman Casey Blaser to the practice roster while releasing offensive lineman John Kling… veteran quarterback Darian Durant took first teams in Montreal on Wednesday and is expected to start Sunday against Hamilton.