Former Hamilton coach Jeff Reinebold calls out Simoni Lawrence for lack of ‘big plays’ in Ticats’ defensive collapses

Photo curtesy: John E. Sokolowski

Jeff Reinebold may no longer be coaching the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, but he’s still calling out some of his former players for their lacklustre start to the 2022 season.

With the Ticats winless entering Week 3 and coming off an overtime loss to the Calgary Stampeders in which they squandered a 24-point lead, Jeff Reinebold made an appearance on The Rod Pedersen Show from his home in Hawaii to explain just how important Friday’s matchup with the Bombers really is.

“It’s a big game for Hamilton. They’ve got to get some confidence,” the long-time CFL special teams guru said. “You can talk all you want about how we’ve been through this before and they’ve got veteran leadership. Yes, they do, no question about it, but the reality of it is you do not want to go to 0-3. No way.”

Reinebold served as the Ticats’ special teams coordinator from 2013 to 2016, before spending the 2017 season as defensive coordinator. After a one-year foray with the B.C. Lions, he returned to the Hammer as special teams coordinator in 2019 and 2021, before stepping away from the team this offseason.

Now viewing Hamilton’s matchups from afar, he believes the club needs stronger performances from their star veterans, namely three-time East Division nominee for Most Outstanding Defensive Player, Simoni Lawrence.

“Right now for Hamilton, the key thing is their marquee players have got to play. I heard you earlier talking about how your great players have to make great plays in big games. Right now, you look at Simoni Lawrence, for example. He has no sacks, no fumble recoveries, no interceptions, and no big plays in two football games,” Reinebold critiqued.

“He needs to get into that category. He needs to get his name [on the stat sheet]. Sack by Simoni Lawrence, interception by Simoni Lawrence. He needs to make big plays.”

The 33-year-old linebacker arrived in Hamilton at the same time as Reinebold and has blossomed into a five-time all-star, but has recorded just 10 tackles in a pair of close losses. His former coach believes Lawrence needs to step up to get the team back on track, but he isn’t alone.

“Dylan Wynn is battling a calf injury, but he’s been a non-factor. Micah Johnson, a complete non-factor right now,” Reinebold said. “Those are the guys that have got to make plays for them. They’re their big-play players.”

While many would point to a turnover-prone offence led by Dane Evans as the primary cause for concern for Hamilton, he remains focused on the team’s defensive performance. A statement must be sent to Winnipeg early that the team’s biggest names are here to make plays, otherwise Ticats fans should simply expect more of the same.

“If they don’t get that done on defence, they’ve collapsed in the fourth quarter in both games,” Reinebold warned. “They’ve gone into the fourth quarter with leads or been real close and what we saw last week against Calgary was just a complete implosion in the second half.”