Why the Hamilton Tiger-Cats traded Canadian punter Jon Ryan (& other news and notes)

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Just 16 days after bringing him in to ostensibly solve their punting woes, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats traded Canadian punter Jon Ryan to the Edmonton Elks for a conditional eighth-round pick in the 2023 CFL Draft.

On the surface, you might wonder why the Ticats signed Ryan in the first place as the former Super Bowl champion never suited up for the team, landing on the one-game injured list for his two games as a member of the Tiger-Cats.

But when the Tabbies signed Ryan on July 10 it coincided with the team re-signing American kicker Seth Small, who was with the Ticats during training camp before being released. Adding Ryan would have allowed the team to flip their ratio on special teams, going with a Canadian punter and American kicker as opposed to the opposite arrangement they had before.

With Ryan not playing, Canadian Michael Domagala, who had been the team’s placekicker up until that point, assumed the punting duties and has exceeded any and all expectations. The former Carleton Raven also adds value by being strong on kickoffs, a role Ryan does not perform.

Domagala was excellent punting the ball in last Thursday’s loss to the B.C. Lions, averaging 47.3 net yards per punt and 50.3 total yards per punt. The St. Catharines, ON native excelling at his new role simply made Ryan expendable, especially given his ability to also placekick if needed.

In other Ticats news, the team will likely have a new look at some key positions when they take the field against the Montreal Alouettes Thursday night.

Future Hall of Fame offensive lineman Chris Van Zeyl has not participated in practice all week and is likely to miss the critical matchup against the Als with a hip injury.

American Colin Kelly, who the team acquired back in June, has slid over to Van Zeyl’s right tackle position while Travis Vornkahl, who started Week 1 against the Saskatchewan Roughriders at left tackle before being benched, looks to be getting a second chance at the important blindside spot.

The team will likely also be without return man extraordinaire Lawrence Woods and Canadian defensive back and special teams ace Stavros Katsantonis. Both have been listed on the daily injury report as having an illness and neither were present for the team’s Tuesday practice session. Micah Johnson, who was also listed on Monday as missing practice due to illness, was back on the field on Tuesday and looks good to go.

It is not all doom and gloom, however, as some of Hamilton’s long-term wounded look to be making their way back into the lineup.

Canadian receiver Lemar Durant and all-star defensive back Cariel Brooks have both been full participants in practice this week, with both taking the majority of first-team reps after missing the first six weeks of the season following injuries suffered during training camp.

With the loss of Van Zeyl along the offensive line, it is likely the Tabbies will be starting two Americans up front against the Als. To make room for a pair of American starting offensive linemen, the team looks to be going with two Canadians in the receiving group, with Durant joining second-year pass catcher Tyler Ternowski in the team’s starting lineup.

Brooks has been back in his familiar spot at boundary halfback, taking over for Alden Darby Jr. who has manned the position over the first six weeks of the season.

All-star linebacker Simoni Lawrence, who was taken off the six-game injured list earlier this week, might not be thrust back into the starting lineup right away. Kyle Wilson, who has filled in for Lawrence the past two weeks while the veteran has dealt with a groin injury, is still receiving the large share of first-team reps with the defence during practice.

It is possible the five-time East Division all-star could dress for Thursday’s game but after seeing Wilson get most of the work with the first-team defence, it would be surprising if the three-time East Division Most Outstanding Defensive Player was listed as the starter against the Alouettes.

Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.