Ticats franchise a picture of health, the QB not so much

Well, at least the franchise is healthy.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats held their annual state-of-the-franchise conference call on Wednesday, a typically mundane update on business operations combined with some unfettered optimism regarding the team’s football prospects (current record 0-0.) But, Kent Austin, vice president of football operations – fresh off his own well-publicized trip to the emergency room a day earlier – used the occasion to deliver some bad news on starting quarterback Zach Collaros.

“Zach is doing amazingly well … the prospects for him going forward are excellent, ” Austin said, before getting to the tough part. “[But] he will not be able to participate in training camp. He’ll be going through his normal rehabilitation protocol so if you mean ‘Will he be ready to start the season coming out of training camp?’ the answer is no.”

Given that Collaros tore his ACL last September and didn’t have the surgery until late October, that’s hardly surprisingly as recovery times are typically anywhere between six and 18 months. But it guarantees the team will start the season with either Jeremiah Masoli (three career starts) or Jeff Mathews (five) at the helm instead of a guy who was running away with the CFL Most Outstanding Player award last year before he got hurt.

The news on Austin’s health, however, was much better. The 52-year-old was taken to hospital Tuesday for an undisclosed ailment – he declined to get into specifics Wednesday – but returned home later the same evening.

“Yeah, I had a hangnail that I had to get cut out that was really, really bothering me, ” Austin joked. “I had a few issues and they still have to do some other tests buy they’ve ruled out all the major stuff and it’s nothing too serious.

“I’ve got to go through some other things, but I feel good about the diagnosis at this point.”

Austin, who also serves as the quarterbacks’ position coach and handled the offensive co-ordinator duties during mini-camp last week, said his preparation for the upcoming season won’t be affected.

“No concerns at all. There are some things I have to address and they’ll get addressed but everything is going to be fine, ” he said.

There was a time, not so long ago, when then-president Scott Mitchell was delivering such assurances regarding the future of the franchise itself.

Now the organization’s CEO, Mitchell has overseen – and had played a significant role in orchestrating – a remarkable turnaround which sees the club on stable financial footing and plotting continued growth.

“We’ve had goals to be a very successful, sustainable organization, ” Mitchell said. “We’re thrilled to be able to say that we’ve surpassed that sustainability and it’s allowed us to have aspirations to be the leading sports entertainment company in Southwestern Ontario.”

Mitchell says the team is investing more than $1 million into Tim Hortons Field this year, a number which includes a flagship store, a new banquet bar, a clubhouse for Tiger-Cats alumni as well as improvements to football operations and Ticats All-Access program, the team’s digital engagement platform.

“I think we turned the corner a few years back. The reality is you can only do so much when you don’t have a great facility and you can only do so much when you don’t have a great product on the field, ” Mitchell said. “It’s no coincidence that both Tim Hortons Field and Kent Austin arrived a few years ago and really changed the whole dynamic of the organization.”

Nursing an ailing franchise back to heath is no easy feat. Now, if Dr. Mitchell could only do something about his quarterback …

NOTES: Austin said the team plans to bring two or three kickers to training camp to compete for the job and all are likely to be American. … All-star safety Craig Butler is expected to miss the entire season.

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