Scott Milanovich believes LB Jordan Williams did Ticats ‘a favour’ by retiring early

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

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are facing massive questions regarding their linebacking corps, but head coach Scott Milanovich isn’t losing any sleep over the sudden retirement of projected Canadian starter Jordan Williams. 

“Next man up. Yeah, I know it’s cliche and you hear about it from everybody but that’s what it is. We have contingency plans for these things,” the first-year bench boss told the media on Thursday.

“If him or any guy is not 100 percent committed to being part of this, then they do us a favour by not wasting our time and letting us know. That’s kind of the take that I’m looking at it.”

Williams was acquired via a trade from the Toronto Argonauts in January as part of a deal that included eight draft picks and one negotiation list player. The Ticats were expected to start the former first-overall CFL draft selection at either weakside or middle linebacker until he informed the team of his decision to step away from the game on Wednesday.

General manager Ed Hervey broke the news to Milanovich and team president Orlondo Steinauer in the middle of the first practice of rookie camp, shortly before word hit the media. The head coach sees the announcement as part of the natural attrition that will come with instilling a new culture in the building.

“This is a new team. There are new people here. We’re building those core values that I’m not going to share with you and we’re going to try to build it around the people that see it that way,” Milanovich explained.

“Hopefully, they’re also great football players but if it comes down to a guy that is a 10 out of 10 on physical ability that doesn’t buy in versus a guy that’s an eight out of 10, we’re gonna take the guy that’s an eight. It’s a long season, there’s a lot of people involved and there has to be total buy-in.”

The Ticats were expected to change their ratio around Williams, a former Most Outstanding Rookie winner who had amassed 229 defensive tackles over three seasons with B.C. and Toronto. His departure leaves Kyle Wilson as the only proven commodity at linebacker and serious concerns about how the team will adapt their Canadian content.

Nevertheless, Milanovich doesn’t view linebacker as any different from the rest of the roster as he looks to build the team in his image.

“Not many,” he said flatly when asked how many positions on the team were set entering training camp. “There’s your Tim (Whites) and your James (Butlers) that have produced at a high level. There’s a couple of guys on defence, Casey (Sayles) has produced at a high level, but everybody else is competing.”

The Tiger-Cats opened training camp on Sunday with their first preseason game scheduled for Saturday, May 25 against the Ottawa Redblacks at Tim Hortons Field.