For some Ticats, pre-season game as big as it gets

Alex Green had been out of the game more than two years when the urge to play again returned.
He was a student-assistant coach at University of Hawaii – an entry level position that had him doing such menial tasks as putting cones on the field before practice – while taking courses toward his master’s degree in sociology.

A promising former third-round NFL draft pick of the Green Bay Packers before a knee injury scuttled his rookie season, Green thought he had made peace with his exit from professional football.

“Being around the game again gave me the bug, ” the 28-year-old Green said. “I realized that there was a big part of me that still wanted to play, that I had unfinished business, ”

His agent called around to several CFL teams and Hamilton was the most serious, offering him an invite to the April mini-camp, then a spot at training camp. He played in the team’s first pre-season game last Thursday, which included a 45-yard dash that set up a second-quarter touchdown.

In Friday’s exhibition finale at home to Toronto, he hopes to get one more opportunity.

“This my last chance to show them what I’m really about and what they’re going to get from me if they keep me for the team.’

The decision to return to the game has come with some sacrifice. His coaching position and his studies are now on hold. Back in his hometown of Portland, his three children had been spending more time with their dad and now he was leaving again.

“My daughter didn’t want me to get hurt, and my son didn’t understand why I had to leave; but I had to explain to him that Daddy loves football, ” he said. “I’m hoping they’ll understand when they get older.”

Green is just one of many players fighting for a job Friday. While the game is nothing but a tune-up for many of the team’s stars – quarterback Zach Collaros and linebacker Simoni Lawrence are unlikely to play much more than a quarter – for players like Green, this could be the last game they ever play.

Green is in a battle with Ross Scheuerman for a backup role behind C.J. Gable, just one of several questions the team has to answer with this game.

Others include sorting out the kicking situation. After a great week of practice, can Sergio Castillo kick well enough in the game to lock up the job? How’s the secondary, still very much a work in progress, shaping up? Who wins the starting job at right tackle, who is the fourth American receiver?

The other big concern in a game like this is injuries. Collaros going down would be bad, it goes without saying. But Hamilton can ill-afford to lose a starting Canadian player in a standings-irrelevant game against a key divisional opponent. Players like defensive tackle Ted Laurent, safety Courtney Stephen and offensive lineman Mike Filer and Ryan Bomben would be very difficult to replace at this point.

It may be an exhibition game, but it’s wrong to call it meaningless. For players like Green, Friday’s contest is the most important of their lives now: the last one they ever play or the gateway to a longer career.

“No matter what happens, I got that fulfilment that was missing, ” Green said. “I can look myself in the mirror and know that I gave it everything I got.”

Notes: The Ticats’ Friday lineup features plenty of starters, though injuries to defensive back Abdul Kanneh and Canadian defensive tackle Mike Atkinson will keep them on the sidelines. … Ricky Ray, Toronto’s No. 1 quarterback, isn’t expected to play . … Hamilton head coach Kent Austin said Thursday that a recommendation from current Argo head coach Marc Trestman helped him get his previous job at Cornell University.

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