Jeremiah Masoli wanted to walk off the field, sit for the required three plays and keep playing after crumbling to the turf.
Masoli refused to believe the anterior cruciate ligament was torn in his left knee.
“I wasn’t even trying to get off to the sideline, honestly, but obviously the training staff and the doctors did a good job holding me in check and calming me down a little bit,” Masoli said.
“Honestly, maybe, deep in the back of my mind I knew it was serious. But who I am wouldn’t believe — I just couldn’t believe it.”
Hamilton’s franchise quarterback went down with a non-contact injury during the first quarter against Winnipeg on Friday, July 26. He went to the locker room after being examined on the trainer’s table. The 30-year-old returned to the sidelines in street clothes with sunglasses on and a brace on his left knee. The next day Masoli underwent an MRI which confirmed the worst.
“It’s been an emotional roller coaster the last couple days, but I think I’ve come to grips with everything. Obviously it sucks and disappointed in what happened, but you can’t do anything about it. That stuff comes with the territory, it’s part of the game. I’m staying positive about everything,” Masoli said.
“So it still took some time for it to set in even after they told me. It sucks. It was a tough pill to swallow even waking up the next day just thinking about it took some time to set in. It could’ve been worse, it could’ve been at a different position in my ACL.”
Hamilton was leading 14-0 at the time Masoli left the game and the Ticats went on to win 23-15. The Ticats were off to their best start since 1998 with Masoli at the helm. Rookie head coach Orlondo Steinauer had to navigate the emotions of the setback with himself and the rest of his team.
“Really dejected for Jeremiah. I had a hunch already. The imaging was going to really clarify it. Mainly for the man, I really felt like he deserved a better fate,” Steinauer said.
Masoli completed 71 per cent of his passes for 1,576 yards with nine touchdowns against seven interceptions through parts of five games this season. He also added 17 carries for 79 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
He threw for over 5,200 yards with 28 touchdowns against 18 interceptions during his first full season as the starter in Hamilton during 2018. Masoli was voted the East Division’s Most Outstanding Player for his efforts.
“He’s devastated really. The team needed a little bit of time to digest it,” Steinauer said. “The message is tuck your lip in and let’s go play ball.”
Until Masoli has surgery he’ll be waiting for the swelling to subside while taking care of the knee to ensure it’s ready for the operation. The major knee damage comes with Masoli scheduled to hit the free agent market in February 2020.
“The injury is not going to change who I am,” Masoli said.
Playing on a non-existent ACL has been done before, but the long-term effects are unknown. Masoli, even as a dual-threat pivot, didn’t completely shut out the idea of suiting up if the medical professionals determined it possible.
“That’s not up to me,” Masoli said, “we’ll see.”