There are plenty of reasons why Ticat quarterback Zach Collaros is happy to have finally taken up permanent residence at Tim Hortons Field, but tops on the list: relief for his long-suffering ears.
“I don’t have to deal with Peter Dyakowski and the offensive line singing on the bus,” Collaros said Thursday after his squad’s first on-field session in their reclaimed home. “That’s the best thing of all.”
For the last two-plus seasons, the Ticats have led a nomadic existence. Their dressing room, training facilities and meeting rooms were at team headquarters on Jarvis Street downtown. They bused to and from Ron Joyce Stadium at McMaster University to practice. And they played in Guelph, at Mac, in Moncton, New Brunswick and — for the first four games of 2015 — exclusively on the road.
“You don’t really understand the adversity you’ve faced until you actually get here and you’re like, ‘Oh, this is what it feels like to be home,'” said receiver Bakari Grant, one of just five remaining Ticats who played a game at Ivor Wynne Stadium. “When they told us last week that we were finally going to move in, we were joking that they’d find a reason why we can’t.”
Beyond Dyakowski’s lack of vocal range, Collaros says there are practical benefits to practising at Tim Hortons Field, where the team will host the Argonauts on Monday in their home opener.
“The wind can make it tough to play here — it just never stops and it isn’t consistent,” Collaros said. “Luckily, we get to practise with it every day.”
With no bus ride to deal with, several players stayed late after practice to get in some extra on-field work. Grant spent time working with the Jugs machine which spits out footballs at high speed and allows pass catchers to work on their hand strength and technique.
“It’s like a Christmas present you’ve been waiting a really long time to open,” Grant said. “It’s good to be home.”
Kicker on practice roster
Despite having the CFL’s leading scorer in Justin Medlock, the Ticats added international kicker Sergio Castillo to the practice roster on Thursday.
The 24-year-old played his college football at West Texas A&M and appeared in a pre-season game with the Atlanta Falcons last season.
“I have both the present and the future to consider with, so we’re keeping both those things in mind and have to plan accordingly,” said general manager and head coach Kent Austin.
Medlock has made 10-of-12 field goal attempts and is a perfect 9-for-9 on one-point conversion attempts, which come from the 32-yard line this season. But the 31-year-old has surrendered his punting duties to Canadian Hugh O’Neill and is set to become a free agent after this season.
To make room for Castillo, the Ticats released receiver Tim Smith.
Ticats receiver and return man Brandon Banks said coaches and teammates didn’t admonish him after he took what could have been a game-changing unnecessary roughness penalty early in the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s win over the Riders.
“What’s understood doesn’t need to be said. It was a dumb play on my part, a stupid decision, a selfish moment,” Banks said Thursday. “I feel bad that I put my team in that situation.”
Banks was also fined by the CFL for his late hit on Roughrider Tyree Hollins, which pushed the Ticats back from the Rider three-yard-line to the 18. Instead of a go-ahead touchdown, Hamilton settled for a field goal but still won the game 31-21.
“I apologized to the team,” Banks said. “That isn’t my personality and it won’t happen again.”
A number of key contributors look set to return to the Ticats’ line up on Monday versus the Argos.
Canadian defensive tackle Ted Laurent, receiver Luke Tasker, defensive end Eric Norwood and linebacker Frederic Plesius all practised fully on Thursday. The Ticats also appear to have gotten through last Sunday’s win versus the Riders with no significant injuries.
The Ticats are as healthy as they’ve been since the first week of training a camp. That has Austin looking for a piece of wood to knock on.
“It’s good for the individual players that have worked hard to come back,” he said. “Having all of our guys at full strength is important. It’s good for them and good for us.”