Ticat linebacker Simoni Lawrence has engaged in some quality trash talk battles over the past few seasons. Calgary running back Jerome Messam blew him a kiss after scoring a touchdown. He gets into it pretty good with Saskatchewan Roughrider receiver Shamawd Chambers every time they play.
But underlying it all is a certain amount of humour and healthy level of respect. Messam called him for support after losing a teammate to gun violence last month. Chambers is among his closest friends. Lawrence is quick to point out that what gets said on the field – or even off it – is all in good fun, all part of the game.
Then there is Henry Burris.
The Redblacks quarterback had some choice words for Lawrence during a halftime interview conducted the last time Ottawa visited Tim Hortons Field. Upset about a low – and legal – tackle, the veteran pivot teed off on his former teamate saying “there’s no place for people like that in this game.”
Lawrence was reminded of those comments on Thursday, a day before Burris and the Redblacks come to town to launch yet another key late-season home and home series that will all but decide the final pecking order of the East Division. He tried to laugh it off, to avoid throwing any gas on the smoldering fire. But Burris’ comments haven’t been forgotten.
“He pissed my mom off,” Lawrence, finally admitted.
Burris chuckled at this and alluded to the fact that Lawrence said he should “stop acting like a ho” in the back and forth that followed the game.
“He upset my mom with the things he did,” Burris said. “He swore, I didn’t swear. His mom needs to wash his mouth out with soap.”
There is plenty of history and a cornucopia of storylines heading into Friday’s game but you know it’s serious when the moms get involved.
The Redblacks swept this series last season, locking up the East Division and the home playoff date that came with it, then punched their ticket to the Grey Cup with a last minute win over Hamilton. That play, which featured Burris connecting with another ex-Ticat in receiver Greg Ellingson, delivered one of the most crushing losses in Hamilton history.
“I’m excited that [Burris] is playing, I’m excited that we get to play the Redblacks with all that’s at stake, especially the way the season ended last year,” Lawrence said. “I feel like Ottawa is our rival.”
The Ticats made a series of roster moves this week that made it clear that they still see themselves as legitimate contenders in a weak East Division. They acquired veteran left tackle Xavier Fulton and Canadian defensive end Justin Capicciotti from Saskatchewan via trade, then signed veteran linebacker Keon Raymond. All three will play this week.
Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who will start in place of the injured Zach Collaros, says the new additions have an impact on the field but also psychologically.
“It certainly sends the message that we’re going all out to go get this Cup,” he said.
It’s an eventful time for Masoli, too, beyond his return starter status: his wife Vunga gave birth to their first child, son Kennedy, in Hamilton last week.
“As soon as I saw that little guy pop out, things have just been different – I don’t even know how to describe it,” he said. “The past couple of years have provided such huge growing experiences for me in my life. I’ve definitely changed. But being a father has shown me that as much as I thought I knew, there’s still so much to learn.”
While Masoli may be making the adjustment to fatherhood, at this point he’s both familiar and comfortable with the role as a starter. Thrust into the job last season after Collaros went down, he now has a much better understanding of what to expect. Those two experiences – becoming a father and a No. 1 quarterback – aren’t entirely dissimilar.
“It’s actually a good comparison,” he said. “As much as you think you might be ready, there is no real substitute for the real thing.”
Lawrence and Masoli train together in the off-season and the linebacker was happy to talk about how well his friend has adapted to his new responsibilities both on and off the field. But he was uncharacteristically circumspect when it came to Burris.
“Ask me after the game.”