On the eve of the most important game of the season, Ticats are dealing with yet another injury to a key contributor.
The team has scratched receiver Terrell Sinkfield, who was second on the team with 1,030 yards and tied for first with six touchdown catches. Sinkfield suffered a lower body injury in the East Semi-Final win over Toronto last Sunday and sat out second half. He missed practice on Thursday but was on the field for Friday’s session.
But head coach Kent Austin said Sinkfield just isn’t healthy enough to play.
“He didn’t respond the way we were hoping and anticipating throughout the week. He didn’t really get over the hump,” Austin said. “It was pretty prevalent yesterday watching him practice and analyzing the film afterwards. He wasn’t going to be able to be as effective as we need him to be.”
“There was the possibility of losing him again and then we’d have depth issues and ratio issues. It just didn’t make any sense to push it.”
Kealoha Pilares will make his first career CFL start in place of Sinkfield. Signed to the practice roster in September, Pilares (teammates call him K.P.) has nonetheless developed a rapport with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli: the two frequently spent time getting in extra on-field work after practice (including after Friday’s session.)
Austin said spending time with Masoli has been helpful – to a point.
“I think it’s good for K.P. to absorb as much as he can without overdoing it. You made the game as simple as possible and give them enough information to be successful and nothing more,” Austin said. “K.P. has a very similar skill set. He’s type of athlete that we like in our offence, he can do multiple things. He hasn’t played so we’re going to see.”
The Ticats have at least three American receivers on the roster with CFL experience – Terrence Toliver, Quincy McDuffie and Jasper Collins Jr. – but elected to go with the untested Pilares.
Toliver has 13 starts this season and finished third on the team with 679 yards. He hasn’t played since Oct. 2 when he was injured in a game against the Calgary but has been practicing fully for the last couple of weeks.
“Experience for experience alone isn’t necessarily a benefit – it depends on your experience. It depends on the baggage that you bring or the lack thereof,” Austin said. “It doesn’t mean that they’re aren’t other choices that are still good choices it’s just a choice that we trust. We’re pretty big as a staff on trustworthiness for individual players and if there’s a lack of trustworthiness, the time you don’t want to test that is playoff time.”
Pilares isn’t the only Ticat making his CFL debut this week against Ottawa: defensive end Troy Davis has been added to the roster in place of the injured Eric Norwood and is expected to play.
It’s the first time in the history of the CFL that two players on one team will be making their CFL debuts in a post-season game. Only 12 players have done it since 1936, none for the Ticats.
Meanwhile, Redblacks quarterback Henry Burris used his media session on Saturday to revisit the hit delivered by Hamilton linebacker Simoni Lawrence in a Nov. 1 game between the two teams. Burris felt the hit targeted his injured knee and said there was “no place in the game” for players like Lawrence.
Lawrence responded by using misogynist terms to describe Burris, for which he was fined and later apologized.
But no flag was thrown on the play and, upon review, the CFL determined the hit was clean. That doesn’t appear to have satisfied Burris.
“We knew exactly what he was try do,” Burris said. “I know he didn’t wish ill will on me but the hit was dirty.”
Lawrence’s response was succinct.
“I don’t care what that man says.”
Burris initially downplayed the revenge factor but it’s clear that the nature of his departure from Hamilton – he was allowed to leave as a free agent after leading the team to 2013 Grey Cup to make way for Zach Collaros – is still on his mind.
“The past two games against Hamilton there was definitely a huge motivation factor. It helped me heal a lot quicker to get back for that game, Burris said. “I was the face of that stadium when they were selling it in the beginning but I never got a chance to play a snap there. To win in that stadium felt great.
“I didn’t really need to look at Kent, I didn’t even need to say anything to those guys about the fact that I’m not there anymore because I could see it on their faces. If we go out and have success, that will be the best way to drive home the point on their decision-making.”
Burris cited his family as motivation for wanting to win another Grey Cup – his youngest child wasn’t born when he last won in 2008 – and said that leading an expansion franchise to a championship game (the Redblacks are in just their second season) is also a factor.
“All the naysayers towards Henry Burris, they can’t say anything after this one. A.C. never brought a team from the ground up. Ricky’s never done it. Damon never did it,” Burris said. “For me to have a chance to be a part of building a team from the ground up would be special because it’s something that not many people have a chance to accomplish.”