Friday’s pre-season game between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Ottawa Redblacks deserves a suitably awkward nickname so here it is: the Injury Avoidance Bowl.
Both teams suffered devastating injuries in their first pre-season contest and will be doing their very best to insure things don’t get any worse. The Redblacks will field a line up featuring just three players who are expected to start in week one while Hamilton will sit a number of key contributors, including linebacker Simoni Lawrence, centre Mike Filer, defensive tackle Ted Laurent and receiver Andy Fantuz.
Jeremiah Masoli will get the start at quarterback for Hamilton but his job will be to stay healthy and play well – in that order. Barring a truly disastrous performance involving a number of inexplicable turnovers, Masoli is expected be the man in the season opener next Thursday against the Argonauts.
With that in mind, he’ll likely play just long enough convince head coach Kent Austin the offence is running smoothly before giving way to Jeff Mathews and Jake Waters. With one quarterback already down – Jacory Harris will miss extended time with a shoulder injury suffered in last Saturday’s pre-season loss to the Argos – the Ticats can’t afford for Masoli to get hurt in a meaningless game.
Typically dual-threat guy, Masoli acknowledged he’ll alter his approach in order to avoid unnecessary contact and reduce the risk of injury.
“You do think about it a little bit,” he said. “It’s not as urgent to get some of these yards with your feet as it is when the season is on the line.”
Having played their first pre-season game on Monday – and having lost running back William Powell and offensive lineman Nolan MacMillan in the process – the Redblacks aren’t taking any chances. Quarterback Henry Burris won’t be in the line up and back up Trevor Harris isn’t expected to play either as Danny O’Brien and Brock Jensen split time behind centre.
The Ticats, meanwhile, also saw Chase Minnifield and Demond Washington go down last Saturday, costing them two players who were expected to start in the defensive backfield to begin the regular season. They are now auditioning replacements.
“Every guy that you sit, that’s more reps for a guy that we’re trying to evaluate behind him,” Austin said. “It’s not just to protect players but to give the guys that are pushing more valuable reps.”
First-year players Quinton Pointer and Chris Davis will start at the corners while Trey Wolfe and Travis Lee will also be looking to make an impact. And there may be reinforcements on the way: the team worked out veteran Geoff Tisdale on Thursday.
Other hotly contested spots include receiver, where the team will have some tough decisions to make, and along the offensive line where a trio of Americans are trying to claim what is likely a single back up spot.
For those looking to watch the game at home, TV rights holder TSN isn’t broadcasting the game but it will be streamed live at Ticats.ca with a full pre-game, half-time and post-game show. The TSN1150 radio broadcast team of Marshall Ferguson and John “Coach Sal” Salavantis will provide the play-by-play and colour commentary.
This is the second straight year the Ticats have made the game available via their production company Stadium Digital and the team continues to be a leader in the area of online content: they are the only team in the CFL to make a pre-season game available via the web again this season.
The best case scenario is a flawless broadcast featuring an entertaining game. The worst? Medical drama.