In the moments after the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ victory over the Edmonton Eskimos last Friday, receiver Terrell Sinkfield sat at his locker watching highlights of himself. A friend had texted him screen captures of his two-touchdown performance against the Eskimos and Sinkfield was taking them in, a big smile on his face.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Sinkfield said. “It just feels like it’s my turn.”
The 24-year-old Sinkfield has been in and out of the lineup since joining the Ticats last September, playing in seven games after being released by Toronto. He started the first two games of this season before a disastrous, one-catch performance in Montreal in which he dropped a touchdown pass that would have given the Ticats a fourth-quarter lead.
It was another bout of inconsistency in a Canadian Football League career plagued by them and it earned him a spot on the bench for the next four weeks.
“Sink is one of those guys that just needs to grow. He has so much natural ability that sometimes the game is easy for him and that causes him to relax at times,” said head coach Kent Austin. “What he needs to remember is that you can’t relax on any play because you never know which are going to be the important ones. He just needs to play hard every play.”
Sinkfield acknowledges that being forced to watch — and worry about his football future — had an impact. He began listening to coaches and teammates who had being telling him to do the little things: watch extra film, run all-out on backside routes, stay late after practice to work on technique.
“I’ve made a good change and I’m trying to take my game to the next level and prepare as a professional every week,” he said. “I’m gaining confidence knowing that I’m putting in the extra work.”
Given the rate in which Austin has turned over the roster the past two-plus seasons, Sinkfield’s second chance is something of an anomaly: Players who don’t produce or, even worse, fail to demonstrate the expected level of commitment have usually been sent packing.
But the revolving door has slowed this season as Austin’s reconstruction of the Ticats has neared completion.
“All the guys that are in this locker-room now are guys that we chose as a staff so we believe in them,” Austin said. “We’re a team — the coaches and the players are all one. So we’re accountable to them in that it’s our job to put them in a position to be successful.”
Sinkfield says the faith shown in him this season by the coaching staff has helped to keep his confidence up and fuelled his new-found work ethic. He believed he would get another a chance.
“That makes it easier and they aren’t just saying it, they’re proving it,” Sinkfield said. “They are going to shoot straight and tell you what you need to do.”
It all came together in Edmonton, where he posted six catches for 116 yards and made the two tough touchdown grabs. The challenge now becomes maintaining the focus and discipline he’s shown in recent weeks over the course of an entire season — or even a career.
“The game is fun, the hard part is putting in the work during the week and being a professional. It’s been a learning experience,” Sinkfield said. “I’m playing with a chip on my shoulder, getting prepared and it’s making the game a lot easier.”
NOTES: With the Ticats set to retire No. 68 on Thursday in honour of the great Angelo Mosca, centre Mike Filer has decided to switch to No. 51. “The hardest part is going to be signing autographs because I’m so used to signing ‘No. 68,'” he said. … Defensive back Emanuel Davis was the only starter from last week’s game in Edmonton who didn’t practise Monday. … Johnny Sears, who has missed the past six games with a hamstring injury, looks set to return to the secondary. … Austin said Canadian safety Craig Butler, out the past two weeks with a lower-body injury, would likely play Thursday against the Montreal Alouettes, while receiver Bakari Grant is still a week away.