Crazy weather day at Ticats practice on Thursday: it started cold and rainy but the last half hour was sunny, hot and humid. Tim Hortons Field is getting ready to host an international rugby match between Canada and the U.S. on Saturday so the field was lined differently and there were the H-style rugby goal posts at each end. The target area has the same dimensions but there are two stanchions instead of one. Here are a few things worth knowing.
1. After suiting up for the first time in more than a week on Wednesday, Canadian defensive tackle Mike Atkinson missed practice on Thursday. He’s currently tabbed as the seventh Canadian starter so if he can’t play Sunday, that would have major ratio implications.
“He’s nursing a foot injury, we had to pull him out today. We’ll see. When injuries hit a national it affects the ratio, it the nature of our game,” head coach Kent Austin said. “The flip side of that is that we’ve tried to create a lot of flexibility, especially on the defensive side of the ball. We’ll be fine.”
If Atkinson can’t go, Canadian defensive end Justin Capicciotti would likely figure into the rotation, with 2017 draft picks Connor McGough (at end) and Justin Vaughn (at tackle) also in the mix. Linebackers Terrell Davis and Nick Shortill could also play a role.
2. Former all-star defensive back Craig Butler is not an option as he is still battling back from a knee injury and hasn’t practiced this week after skipping both pre-season games. Austin wouldn’t put a timeline on his return.
“Don’t know. He’s not there yet,” Austin said.
3. No sign of halfback Abdul Kanneh at practice, either, meaning it looks increasingly unlikely he’ll play Sunday.
4. I asked Austin about the challenges of game planning for the Argos given that head coach and offensive guru Marc Trestman and defensive coordinator Corey Chamblin have been out of the league for a while.
“The task is going to be at game time and making sure whatever manifests itself defensively against our offence that we make the proper adjustments and call the game properly,” Austin said. “Coordinators change and they grow and the first few games are a challenge.”
5. Austin acknowledged something I’ve long suspected: that coaching is the favourite hat of the many he wears for the Ticats.
“It’s always exciting when the season starts because you have anticipation to see how you’re guys are going to play, the excitement of competition and winning football games, the journey of the season. I think if you lose that excitement, that zest for the game, you probably need to get out,” he said.
“It doesn’t mean I’ll always be doing it – that might be decided for me,” he laughed. “Coaching is the best part of it, for sure.”