The @20YardEndZone Podcast – Episode 4

The 20-Yard End Zone Podcast – Episode 4

The guys talk Khalif Mitchell, the CFL’s West division, the CFL draft, synthetic turf, the XFL and more! We’re also very pleased to be joined by UBC head coach Blake Nill who talked a bit about his #1-ranked Thunderbirds heading into the CIS football season.

Thanks for listening!

@DefendTheR

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Putting the Carter incident to bed (hopefully)

A lot has been said in mainstream and social media about the Duron Carter incident over the last week. Some of it reasonable, far too much of it not. I’m not interested in re-hashing each element of the incident or perform a Zapruder film-like dissection of the various TSN broadcast angles. In my estimation, it is all pretty meaningless and does little else than deflect from the only issue of any import or relevance: An opposing player aggressively approached the Ottawa Redblacks sideline and recklessly knocked over head coach Rick Campbell. 

The rest: details.


Was Jermaine Robinson’s hit on Carter after the TD catch dangerous and worthy of a fine? Yes. Should Jerrell Gavins have been fined for punching the back of Carter’s head after he knocked Campbell down? Probably. Was Campbell on the field of play? Of course. Was Carter concussed? Maybe. But all of that is nothing but window-dressing. Missing the forest for the trees. Footnotes to the real story. 

A player went after an opposing coach.

It’s pretty simple: Coaches have to be protected from acts like this. Leagues protect their officials – like the NHL did in the Dennis Wideman case – because they are vulnerable to the much larger, stronger, amped-up athletes they’re paid to look after. Football coaches are very similar in this respect.

(Side note: How anyone in their right mind could believe the 5’10”, not-very-athletic Campbell would initiate contact with a 6’5″ fully-equipped and partially-enraged football player is mind-boggling.)

The end result from the CFL was a single-game suspension for Carter and fines for other members of the Redblacks, including Campbell, which didn’t sit very well him. It’s a real shame the CFL didn’t take the opportunity and send a message to Carter with a suspension in the 2-to-4 game range, especially now that the player has apparently decided to appeal. Imagining a scenario where everyone directly involved in the Carter incident EXCEPT CARTER gets reprimanded by the league is pretty sickening. The league should have seen that coming, too. We’ll see how it plays out.

Everyone will have their point of view, and I get that (we can’t all be right ;)). Here are a couple places (from outside of Ottawa) that I believe describe the incident appropriately.

Arash Madani – CFL failed with Carter’s light punishment

Davis Sanchez – Intro to Episode 3 of The Waggle Podcast

Looking forward to putting this whole incident in the rear view mirror. Also eagerly anticipating August 19th, when the Alouettes visit Ottawa.

Thanks for reading!

@DefendTheR

Training Camp update – A few answers, but still many questions

By Cranky Frank Clair 

So we’re almost two weeks into camp. Thus far there’s been a weak attempt by the media to stir up a QB controversy, a sidelined DE and a soggy mock game.

The RedBlacks had a lot of question marks coming into camp and if they haven’t been answered, at least we have a glimpse at what GM Marcel Desjardins thinks the answers might be.


It looks like an American will take the RT spot. Jake Silas has been with the starting o-line, and while he isn’t dominating, he doesn’t look out of place, either. Tommie Draheim is the other American the RedBlacks are looking at for the position. I’ve seen him take some very difficult reps in o-line vs d-line drills, but it’s a long camp.

This means that it appears Nolan MacMillan will remain at guard, and 2015 first overall pick Alex Mateas remains backup. Mateas looks in great shape, but he hasn’t dominated in camp. This having been said, o-line can take longer to get it together during pre-season, so time will tell. 2016 first rounder Lauzon-Seguin is coming along nicely, but certainly isn’t pushing for a starting job yet. 

Photo: Moton Hopkins

On the other side of the ball, Zack Evans and Moton Hopkins are the clear leaders of the d-line. They are in great shape and have dominated in drills. I thought last season that Evans had surpassed Keith Shologan, and I don’t think the team will really miss the free agent departee. 
Those who follow me on Twitter know I’d been looking for a DT to step up for the depth position inside, and I was hoping Connor Williams would do it. He has delivered. Quick and very strong, he looks like a DT/DE tweener but he has been explosive inside and will allow a very good rotation at DT. Unfortunately, Amobi Okoye still hasn’t been medically cleared to join the team, so the former NFLer must be assumed to be out of the picture for 2016 until we hear otherwise. It remains to be seen who will be a 4th DT. 

DE is another story. Aston Whiteside continues to sit out drills. The team says it is easing him in, we’ll see over the next two weeks whether his activity level ramps up. It doesn’t seem to have changed in the ten days of camp so far. Filling Whiteside’s first team spot in drills has been 6′ 6″ Marlon Smith, who seems to be the best of the American pass rushers brought into camp. [UPDATE: Smith was released on 6/10]. At the other DE position, Arnaud Gascon-Nadon has been the starter. None of the Americans remaining at DE seem to be making it a tough decision to keep a Canadian at the position. 


A Canadian passport may be enough to tip the balance in competition for the open WR position. Kalil Paden and Jamill Smith have proven reliable and they both have great hands. Former Texas Longhorn John Harris is showing his potential; all three seem to be having a very good camp. Canadian content requirements being what they are, it might not be enough to get that open spot. Jake Harty is playing with the first unit and seems to fit in well.


Paden, Smith and Harris will be hard to keep off the field, however. It will be interesting to see over the next two weeks how much they push 1,000-yard club members Ernest Jackson, Greg Ellingson and Chris Williams. 

Overall, the offence is looking sharp. DBlock is flying around doing its thing and hasn’t missed a beat despite the offseason departures. The LBs from last season look like they’ll be the LBs this season, other than perhaps a newcomer or two to shore up special teams. This remains very firmly Henry Burris’ team – it’s a joy to watch him run the offence. 

We remember Trevor Harris’ performances against the RedBlacks last season and how sobering they were for RNation. Harris is showing that same deftness in camp and he’s doing it with a nice R on his helmet instead of that ugly A. 

Next stop – the first pre-season game on June 13th. Someone will step up and be noticed, someone will get noticed for the wrong reasons, and someone will scare RNation with an apparent injury. And immediately after the game, the team will have to cut its training camp roster down to 65. We’ll be back next week to review the game and see how things are shaking out with the reduced roster. 

And on Monday, I’ll be thrilled to welcome everyone back to my house to watch football on my lawn. Come say hi, but please don’t spill beer on my foot. 

Follow Cranky Frank Clair on Twitter – @crankyclair

Thanks for reading!

@DefendTheR

Photos from OttawaRedblacks.com, unless noted.

Ottawa Redblacks 2016 Draft recap

The Ottawa Redblacks took part in their fourth CFL draft on Tuesday (third as an active team), adding nine talented Canadians from CIS and NCAA schools to their roster. Here’s a look at each pick, and what we know/have heard about each:

#7 OL Jason Lauzon-Séguin, Laval

Lauzon-Séguin became the third Laval offensive lineman taken in the first round, following Philippe Gagnon (#2 pick to Montréal) and Charles Vaillancourt (fifth pick to BC). Though his teammates garnered most of the attention, some believe Lauzon-Séguin could be the most talented and is certainly the most versatile, as GM Marcel Desjardins explains:

Also telling that Canadian Football Blog (@CanFbBlog) has Lauzon-Séguin on their Top 5 Underrated Prospects list.
Born in St-Eugène, Lauzon-Séguin is unlikely to start in 2016. Like last year’s #1 pick, Alex Mateas, he will likely see limited reps in his rookie season, with an eye to a starting role in 2017.

#16 DB Mikael Charland, Concordia

As has become a customary through the team’s three full drafts, Desjardins went a little off the board with his second round draft selection, picking Concordia DB Mikael Charland. He was not, for example, on the CIS Scouting Bureau’s final Top 20 list released in April. Nonetheless, the Redblacks have themselves an impressive athlete, standing 6′ 4″, who could be a major ratio-buster at DB. Born in Gatineau, Charland is expected to be a contributor on special teams in fairly short order.

#25 DL Mehdi Abdesmad, Boston College

With their third selection, the Redblacks selected their most talented and highly-touted player of the 2016 draft in Mehdi Abdesmad. Ranked #3 by the CIS Scouting Bureau, the 6′ 7″ (!) Abdesmad could one day be a huge part of Ottawa’s defensive line, however he is currently the property of the Tennessee Titans. This is the first time the Redblacks have taken a shot on a NFL signee. Wish him all the best down south, but having him end up in Ottawa would be a major coup.

#34 LB Kevin Jackson, Sam Houston State

Jackson is a Canadian-born, Texas-raised LB that adds Canadian depth at a premium defensive position. Indications are he can also contribute on special teams in Ottawa sooner than later.

#43 OL Randy Beardy, Windsor

In the CFL, a team really can’t have enough Canadian offensive line depth. In Beardy, the Redblacks get just that, and a player that CFL draft guru Justin Dunk picked as one of his sleepers.

#45 OL Kyle Fraser-Audit, Guelph

More Canadian OL depth! With the pick acquired from Saskatchewan in the Mo Price trade, the Redblacks added the now-former Guelph Gryphon. Here’s a little workout video:

#54 LB Arto Khatchikian, Concordia

The Redblacks second selection out of Concordia also happens to be roommates with their first, Charland.

This is pretty cool, too:

Khatchikian projects as mainly a special teams contributor as a pro.

#60 WR Jamal Kett, Western

The 6′ 5″ Kett transferred from Simon Fraser University to Western in 2015. Unfortunately, Kett broke his leg while training in the spring and is not expected at training camp. He’ll likely get his first look in 2017.

#69 LB Guillaume Tremblay-Lebel, Laval

With their final pick, Ottawa selected their second Rouge et Or product of the night in Tremblay-Lebel. Here’s some video:

Tremblay-Lebel also represented the eighth Laval player drafted on the night to set a new CFL draft record.

KEY STATS

Laval players drafted: 2
Concordia players drafted: 2
Local players drafted: 2
Players with multiple last names drafted: 3

Thanks for reading!

@DefendTheR

(Player photos courtesy of @Redblacks)

Retro Preview: How they’d look today – 1969

As we await Thursday’s launch of the Redblacks’ new Adidas-designed uniforms, we thought this would be a great opportunity to “look ahead” to what Ottawa’s first throwback uniforms might look like. With 120 years of Rough Rider football to draw from, there are definitely some great options to consider. In this short series (this is the third of three – part 1 here, part 2 here), we’ll look at which year (or timeframe) we’d like to see remembered and why. Huge thanks to artist and CFL fan Nelson Hackewich for the concepts.

Part 3 of 3: Glory Days

Photo: Scott Grant Photogrphy

A Little History

The back-half of the 1960s really were the last of the heydays for the Ottawa Rough Riders. From 1966 to 1969, Ottawa amassed a dynastic 40-13-2 record, winning two Grey Cups (’68 & ’69) and appearing in a third (’66).

We highlighted the many honours QB Russ Jackson won during his career in our last post. Other Rough Riders award-winners during this period include:

Frank Clair – Coach of the Year (1966)
RB Bo Scott – All-Star (1966)
WR Whit Tucker – All-Star (1966)
G Roger Perdrix – All-Star (1966)
DB Gene Gaines – All-Star (1966)
LB Ken Lehmann – Most Outstanding Lineman (1968), All-Star (1969)
RB Vic Washington – Grey Cup MVP (1968), All-Star (1969)

SE Margene Adkins – All-Star (1969)
DE Billy Joe Booth – All-Star (1969)
LB Jerry Campbell – All-Star (1969)
DB Don Sutherin – All-Star (1969)

Following the 1969 Grey Cup, Jackson announced his retirement from the CFL, ending a legendary 12-year career.

This uniform appears to have been worn from 1966 until 1973, but is synonymous with the 1969 team. It would indeed be fitting that this one be the first throwback used by the Redblacks, both as a representation of Ottawa’s CFL Golden Age and recognition of Jackson’s impact on the league.

The Uniform

Home uniform, circa 1969
Away (road) uniform, circa 1969
So good.

EDIT (2:30pm): Forgot to include this photo of Tony Gabriel from the inaugural home opener in 2014:


Looks real similar, doesn’t it? At this point, I’d be shocked if this wasn’t the Redblacks’ first foray into retro uniforms. 

Thanks for reading! Can’t wait till Thursday! 

@DefendTheR

References
1. Forgotten Heroes: The Ottawa Rough Riders 1969-1996 by John Joseph Kelly 
2. Wikipedia

The Social: Chatting with OSEG’s Digital Marketing Manager, Mat Smith

Back by popular demand, we sat down with the man behind @Redblacks, OSEG’s Manager of “Growth Hacking & Digital Marketing”, Mat Smith (@smith_mat). It’s our opportunity to get an inside look at the social media game in pro sports, and maybe a little inside scoop or two 😉

Thanks to Mat for taking the time in what is becoming an increasingly jam-packed CFL offseason. Enjoy!

@DefendTheR: #RNation had a strong first year, but really stepped up their game in 2015, leading the CFL in Twitter activity. Success on the field certainly helps, but in your eyes, what was the biggest revelation from 2015 that made this happen? 

Mat Smith: Total team effort. We’ve been able to establish an online community where the team, fans, players, and staff all interact on a regular basis. There are no barriers. There’s two-way conversation. I think we’ve done a good job of creating a real community atmosphere where everyone feels open and comfortable talking to each other.

The key to getting fans talking about your team? Talk back. Engage in dialogue. Give them a reason to talk about you. Create engaging and unique content. We’re not afraid to answer questions, goof around, or even initiate conversations with members of #RNation.

Personal social media highlight(s) from this season?

Oh, man. Obviously having the most-mentioned Twitter account was cool, but there a definitely a few moments that stand out to me. I think the majority of my social media highlights are all tied to important on-field moments; Henry Burris’ record-setting game, clinching a playoff spot, Greg Ellingson’s “2nd and 25” catch, and this video of Rick Campbell getting a Gatorade shower after winning the East Final.

All in all, 2015 was amazing. I was able to document and capture content during a worst-to-first season, several CFL records, a Grey Cup trip, and got to see football in Ottawa continue to blossom. I get the opportunity to work with first-class athletes and interact with great fans on a daily basis…it makes my job pretty easy.

Your most unique memory from Grey Cup?

The whole week was a whirlwind. I don’t think I could even single out one particular memory. Grey Cup week had a huge impact on my life, both professionally and personally, and it was an experience I’ll never forget.

It’s been awesome to see the locker room access provided for social media. What were the changes/enhancements/improvements you had specifically planned for the fanbase? And how did the players/front office staff take to it?

The access is in large part to a strong and trusting relationship with our football ops team. We work together to ensure the content being produced represents the team in the best way, but at the same time making sure it comes across as genuine. Marcel, Rick, and the rest of the staff have been a huge help both at home and on the road.

We want to show fans what it’s really like to be in a CFL locker room before and after a game. We want to ensure we have a good mix of photos, pre and post-game speeches, interviews, and some of the lighter content that goes on in the locker room; freestyle rapping, players interviewing other plays, Ernest Jackson riding his bicycle, etc.

Football is a brotherhood. It’s about camaraderie, teamwork, and family. That’s really what we’re trying to convey when we take fans behind the scenes. Sometimes it’s intense and sometimes it’s light. We’re lucky enough to have the access to show both sides of the coin.


Seems like you guys are more than willing to try out out new toys and gadgets to engage fans. Tell us a bit about the ones you tried last season?

 A couple of the bigger initiatives last season were our Brizi Cam – fan-controlled cameras installed around the stadium that were linked to a mobile site, and a heavy-focus on GoPro content in our #GoingPro video series. We’ve got a few new fun toys from Twitter this year including a GIF maker, video challenger, and Twitter Q&A app that should make for an even more engaging fan experience.

What’s your pick for the next big thing/platform in social media? 

Video, video, and more video. Whether it’s live-streaming, 360 video, or platform-specific video series, it seems to be the dominant type of content across the majority of platforms. I think you’ll see teams and brands put more emphasis into their video production. It’s easy, consumable content.

Without giving away too much, can you give #RNation a taste of what we’re in for in 2016?

More live video streaming on Facebook and Twitter (Periscope), heavy focus on produced video, fun/wacky content with our players, behind-the-scenes access, and even more fan-focused content. We’re also looking to do some local crowd-sourcing for some special projects; there are a lot of talented people in Ottawa and we’d love to incorporate them into our content.

What would you like to see? Tweet your ideas @REDBLACKS or @smith_mat.

Besides @Redblacks (ie. yourself), what other team account makes you laugh?

That’s a tough one. I usually go for content > humour, but there are a few accounts out there that do a great job of being funny while remaining on-brand. I’ll give my favourite from each of the “big four” leagues: Chicago Cubs (@Cubs), Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL), Carolina Panthers (@Panthers), and the Golden State Warriors (@warriors).

The #RNation flag that flies at TD Place was an awesome idea and it was a great honour to see our @OTTRoughRiders account featured on it. Can you give us a little background on how it came to be and the thinking behind it?

We really wanted our content to be personal, fan-centric, and based around #RNation. John Mathers, our VP of Ticket Sales & Marketing, came up with the idea. The idea initially began as just the big crowd flag, but then grew into having a select player lead the team out of the tunnel each game carrying a smaller version of the flag, as well as a flag that at TD Place that is raised by season ticket holders. The idea is that we all play for #RNation and that the fans are a huge part of the team. Our players completely bought into that idea.

After visiting Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton a couple times last year, I noticed the Ticats integrate tweets into their gameday presentation. Something we might see more of at TDP?

Yes – absolutely. We have the capability with our scoreboard and will use it for the upcoming season.

Anything else from around the league you’ve seen and really liked as far as gameday presentation or social media initiative?

I’m a big fan of Saskatchewan’s game day presentation as a whole – it’s simple and engaging. As for social, I really like the voice and direction the Argos have taken in recent months. I’m excited to head down to BMO Field and experience outdoor football in Toronto.

Does the CFL initiate social media training for each team?

We work closely with league staff to ensure everyone is on the same page, constantly updated on changes to the various platforms, and to help optimize content that is produced across the league. Occasionally we’ll hold league-wide conference calls or video chats with Facebook and Twitter reps to discuss the latest changes and trends. There is also a fairly large portion of CFL Congress (annual league meetings) dedicated to social media best practices.

Is social media training provided to players at the league level, or do you look after it internally?

Social media training for players is generally handled at the team level. Marcel and his staff have been incredibly accommodating over the past couple seasons and have allotted time for us to give a training session during the first full-team meeting at camp. I try to make myself as available as possible to our players and encourage their input on content pieces, social initiatives, or any ideas they may have throughout the season.

Noticed there were additions to the Redblacks comms team this offseason. How has the comms/social team changed/grown since the start-up days?

In year one we really only had three staff managing comms/social/content. We’ve since expanded our team to almost 10 people to ensure we have full 360 coverage for all four of the OSEG brands (REDBLACKS, Fury FC, 67’s, & TD Place).

Do you have other people at OSEG look after the Redblacks social media accounts periodically? How do you structure that?

Yes, we have a handful of people with access to the team accounts. It’s primarily myself and one other person, but also a combination of the comms/content team. We try to keep a uniform voice no matter who is posting.

Can you give us some highlights of the new website? What’s the best way for fans to get notification & stay up-to-date on all things Redblacks?

As you’ve probably heard, we’ve decided to shut down REDBLACKS mobile app. The new league-wide website redevelopment is the reasoning behind this decision. 

The new website is optimized for mobile – that’s a huge step forward for us as a league. The site was designed with a heavy focus on rich video and imagery. It’s user-friendly and easy to navigate. The best way for fans to stay up-to-date is to follow us on social media (Twitter is the most all-encompassing channel), check the website, and subscribe to our newsletters.

With adidas coming on board, there will obviously be some jersey changes coming. I know you can’t tell us much, but maybe can you share your thoughts on how the new ones turned out?

Haha I knew this would come up. The picture will become clearer in the coming days. I think fans will be really happy with the new adidas jerseys – definitely some improvements from the last two years.

Redblacks jersey teaser #1 (OttawaRedblacks.com)
Redblacks jersey teaser #2 (OttawaRedblacks.com)

Redblacks jersey teaser #3 (OttawaRedblacks.com)

Any update on the plaid helmets?

Just kidding 🙂

Haha, it’s too bad they didn’t pan out. I actually really liked the look. Now I can’t use my favourite Biggie lyric anymore because there’s no hat to match.

Thanks again for the insight, Mat!

@DefendTheR

Retro Preview: How they’d look today – 1976

As we await the launch of the Redblacks’ new Adidas-designed uniforms for 2016, we thought this would be a great opportunity to “look ahead” to what Ottawa’s first throwback uniforms might look like. With 120 years of Rough Rider football to draw from, there are some great options to consider. In this short series, we’ll look at which year (or timeframe) we’d like to see remembered and why. Huge thanks to artist and CFL fan Nelson Hackewich for the concepts.

This week, we look at Ottawa’s last taste of Grey Cup glory, 1976.

History

The Rough Riders won the East in 1976, putting together a 9-6-1 season. The team was led by All-Stars TE Tony Gabriel (who would also be named the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian), RB Art green and LB Mark Kosmos, as well as All-Eastern QB Tom Clements.

  
Ottawa faced Hamilton (8-8) in the East Final, winning a tightly-contested game 17-15 at Lansdowne Park to earn a berth into 64th Grey Cup. Held at Toronto’s Exhibition Place, the Canadian championship pitted Ottawa against their sort-of nickname counterparts from Regina (11-5). A back-and-forth affair, Saskatchewan held a 20-16 lead late in the 4th quarter. With just 31 seconds remaining, Clements called for “Rob I, fake 34, tight end flag” in the huddle (not the call he received from the bench, by the way) and hit a streaking Gabriel in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. One of the iconic plays in CFL history, it is commonly referred to as “Clements to Gabriel” or simply “The Catch”.

  

Watch it here. Goosebumps every time.

  

The Uniform

And with that, here’s Hackewich’s take on the 1976 Rough Riders uniforms:

1976-style home uniform
1976-style road (away) uniform

One of the things we like best about (most of) the old Rough Riders uniforms is the simplicity. Nothing flashy, but a look that is timeless. The white jersey/red pant road uniform is a bold look with a very ’70s feel to it.

1976 was the first year the Rough Riders wore this jersey/pant combo, which they stuck with through the 1979 season.

As it is the uniform worn by the last Ottawa team to win the Grey Cup, have to think it is a front-runner for the first retro uniform to be worn by the Redblacks. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too much longer to find out. The 40th anniversary would be a great time to do it, wouldn’t it?

Thanks for reading!

@DefendTheR

References

1. Forgotten Heroes: The Ottawa Rough Riders 1960-1996 by John Joseph Kelly 
2. Wikipedia 

#TBT: Interview with Jerome Haywood

By: Santino Filoso

For today’s Throwback Thursday interview we sit down with former Ottawa Renegade defensive lineman Jerome Haywood. A stalwart at San Diego state, Haywood started 46 consecutive games before being signed by the Renegades in 2002 as an undrafted free agent. During his time in Ottawa Haywood was a ferocious run stuffer at nose tackle where he consistently faced double and even triple teams despite standing only 5’8″.

haywood_jerome7

RR: As a Californian coming up to Ottawa, what was your first impression of the city?
JH: Besides the airport, the first place in Ottawa that I saw was Kemptville where we had training camp. I definitely started having second thoughts about playing in Canada when I saw the small airport and then Kemptville . I thought Ottawa was like Kemptville for about a week and a half until we had a day off during training camp and I finally got a chance to go into the city.
You played for the Renegades from 2002-2006, what are some of your favorite memories of that time?
I remember the epic Canada Day game in 2005  as it was a good time from start to finish. I loved our red jerseys. Training camp in 2005 was great as well because we had such a great coaching staff that year.  To be honest I loved every minute while I was in Ottawa. I remember hanging out at the deli across the street from the stadium with players and coaches, just bonding and having a great time.
Looking at your CFL stats I noticed that you had 3 rushing attempts for the Renegades in 2004, were those goal-line carries?
One goal line carry and two middle of the field carries. I played fullback on our goal line package and I loved it. I’m not one for the spot light, I just like to kick ass. Making holes for the running back was awesome. The time I got the ball on the goal line sucked because I didn’t punch it in.
A lot of people blame the Renegades ownership for being a distraction to the team, did you ever feel that way?
I wouldn’t blame it all on ownership and I’m sure that they wouldn’t blame the players and coaches. In my personal opinion I think our lack of success was with the players.  We played in plenty of games that we were right in it until the end but found a way to smoke it off. I don’t believe that as a whole we had the mental toughness that you need to be successful. In our last year we were headed in that direction with a solid group of guys but then the team folded. Unfortunately winning doesn’t happen overnight and you have to have a strong foundation to be good. Coach Etch (Gary Etcheverry) always said “It is what it is.”
When the Renegades folded in 2006, did you have any idea where you would end up and what was the general mood of the players upon learning that Ottawa would be disbanded?
I had no clue where I was going but I knew that I would be picked up by someone. That time really sucked  because a lot of good players lost jobs. I couldn’t believe that a team would fold after just 4 years, especially one in the Nation’s Capital. I’m happy that football is finally back in Ottawa!
You have 31 career sacks, is there one that was more satisfying than the others?
I don’t remember the exact one but the sacks that I will always cherish are the sacks against Anthony Calvillo. I can say that I hit that man maybe 6-9 times a game but I have sacked him maybe 6-8 times in my career.  He was definitely a hard one to sack because he would get rid of the ball right as he was being hit and he would get back up and do it again. But I would say that all of my sacks against him stand out.
Who was the biggest trash talker you ever played against?
I don’t remember one person that I actually played against but Adriano Belli was always talking to the teams that I played with. For me it was fun because I always played harder when I would hear him running his mouth. My first 2 years in the league I talked a lot of trash but only having 9 teams in the league it was kind of hard to keep talking because you end up seeing other  players on the field, or out at the bar after the game, and sometimes even on your team the following week.
Did you have any pre-game superstitions?
I wasn’t too bad with my superstitions. I would always have a bag of peanut M&M’s the night before the game. I would also take an Epsom salt bath the night before as well. I always wore the same clothes under my jersey for the year. My warm-up for the game was something that I’d done since college. I would jog around the field before the game and spend my time stretching and sizing up whose ass I was going to kick.
What was the hardest hit you ever made on someone?
John Avery got a good hit from me but I really didn’t do much. We were playing Toronto and it was a run play. I was holding my gap and I saw the hand off to Avery so I waited for him to commit to a gap. He decided to run to the gap right next to me because for some reason it was open. Once I saw him commit I spun from my gap to the gap that he was running to and when I came out of my spin he was running full speed and ran into me. He bounced off to me to the turf and landed on his back. His exact words to me were “Damn Haywood I’ve never been hit that hard.” It was a big collision and I felt it but I’m happy that I was the hammer and not the nail.
Describe your perfect off day while living in Ottawa.
My perfect day was simple. I wanted to be in apartment with my wife (girlfriend at the time) relaxing after I worked out and sat in the cold tub at the facility. I’m a laid back kind of guy.
Throughout your CFL career you played for Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg and Edmonton, what was the toughest stadium to play at?
The toughest place for me to play was Saskatchewan. The fans love their Riders and I heard it all. I’ve never been called a fat ass until I was there, good times!
Now that you´ve been out of the league for a few years, what are you doing for work?
Right now I’m a PE Teacher/Athletic Director at a school for at-risk youth. I’m also working on becoming a personal trainer. I love the game of football and now its about time for me to start working my way back in it somehow, maybe as a strength coach or something like that.
Do you still keep in touch with a lot of your former teammates? If so, who?
I do! Derrick Ford is a close friend of mine as well as Tony White and Kai Ellis. I still talk to Coach Pao Pao from time to time. Facebook keeps a lot of us connected.
Any plans to head back to Ottawa to catch a Redblacks game?
I sure do! I hope that it will be a lot sooner than later too. I have to deal with some immigration stuff and I will be up there so my wife can visit her family and I can see the new team. I might even ask for a job hahaha.
Every player has a nickname or two, what was yours?
I’ve had a few but the one that I go by is Rome, Romey, Romey Rome. I’ve also been called Tank and the Plug.
What was the best piece of football advice you ever received?
I don’t know the single best piece because I received a lot over the years. I can’t remember who told me but one that stuck with me was “Don’t be complacent because there is always someone better than you out there so you better work hard.” I think in 2005 I was complacent and I should have lost my job because I was out played by a rookie but I wasn’t let go because I was durable and the coaches knew what I could do. Trust me, that after that I told myself I would not let that happen again ever in my life.
Jerome Haywood Ottawa Renegades 2005. Photo F. Scott Grant
Thanks for your time Jerome, and a hell of an interview too! Best of luck in the future and we can’t wait to see you back visiting Ottawa!

Cut-down day: Redblacks trim roster by 14 (EDIT: 15)

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From CFL.ca:

The Redblacks announced their cuts on Saturday morning, just hours after they played their final pre-season game against the Montreal Alouettes.

General Manager Marcel Desjardins declared 14 cuts to the team’s final roster, with veteran kicker Justin Parlardy and National receiver Simon LeMarquand among the most notable.

Desjardins also announced that National receiver Steven Adu, International DB Parker Orms, International LB Devin Arrington, National DL Stephon Miller, International DL Dimetrio Tyson, International kicker Paolo Henriques, National OL Brendan Dunn, National OL Aaron Wheaton, International WR Taulib Ikharo, International WR Travon Patterson, National receiver Aaron Hargreaves, and National OL James Lee have all been released.

A few notes & thoughts on the these moves:

– The signing of former Winnipeg Blue Bombers Import International K Brett Maher last week was certainly an indication that Redblacks brass were looking for more at the kicker/punter position, but still surprising to see Palardy let go. Though not as critical as it once was, CFL teams definitely look at the K position as one best filled by Canadians from a quota standpoint. A tough day punting against the Alouettes on Friday May have sealed Palardy’s fate.

UPDATE (11:22 PM): Per Gord Holder of the Ottawa Citizen, the Redblacks have also cut Brett Maher. As it stands tonight, there are no kickers on the active roster. Expect one or two signings within the next day.

– Le Marquand was a highly trumpeted signing for the Redblacks in the spring, what with him being a Gatineau boy and former Ottawa Gee Gee. But the WR was in tough to make the squad at that position and likely had to stand out on special teams to make the team. Appears he was not able to do so in two pre-season games.

– Wheaton, from the University of Toronto, was the Redblacks 4th round (28th overall) selection and Miller, a University of Windsor grad, was their 6th round (46th overall) selection in the 2014 CFL Canadian Draft on May 13th. Bit surprising neither was offered a practise roster position, although a very clear indication the Redblacks are building a roster more focused on the present, not the future.

– Adu, a graduate of the University Of Toronto, may best be remembered for the shout-out he got from Toronto Mayor Rob Ford upon his signing with the Redblacks.

– Patterson was the receiving end of a 60-yard touchdown pass & run in the Redblacks inaugural preseason game against SSK. Apparently wasn’t enough to earn a spot with the club.

– Lee was selected in the first round of the Redblacks expansion draft, held in December of last year, from the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Another somewhat surprising cut, but clearly the Redblacks were able to find players they liked as much or better via free agency.

VIDEO: GM Marcel Desjardins and coach Rick Campbell on today’s cuts (via CFL.ca)

Ten additional players will be offered practise roster spots (and it appears Jasper Simmons is one of them), and a handful of others will be placed on injured reserve, though neither list has yet been announced by the team.

UPDATE (10:25 AM): The Redblacks have confirmed their practise roster and injured list. List includes:

Practice Roster
Simmons, Jasper LB (International) Robinson, Jermaine DB (International) Hayes, Michael RB (International) Medeiros, Robin WR (National)
Desmarais , Hugo OL (National)
Forgette, Steven OT (International)
Rouse, Fred WR (International)
Carter, Matt WR (National)
Mitchell, Carlton WR (International)
Lewis, Monte DL (International)

Injured List
Jones, Reggie DB (International)
Verdone, Jordan LB (National)
McCuller, Jeraill T (International)
Eppele, Joe OL (National)
Evans, Zack DL (National)

No doubt a tough day for all these athletes. Here’s hoping we see some of them get another chance here or elsewhere.

@OTTRoughRiders

Ottawa Paints Montreal Redblack

By: Santino Filoso

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On Friday night the Redblacks closed out their pre-season and made the short trip over to Montreal to resume a rivalry that had been on hold for 3156 days. 72 players had one last chance to impress coaches and beat out the competition in hopes of surviving the final round of training camp cuts and earning a roster spot.

Pre-Game:

– When he’s not playing against the Redblacks, how can you not be pulling for a guy like Chad Johnson? He’s got the right attitude about playing in the CFL and when asked by the Montreal Gazette how he was feeling heading into tonight’s game he dropped this gem;

It’s similar to the feeling before I lost my virginity. There’s a certain level of excitement … anticipation … not knowing what’s going to happen or what I’m going to get.

– Realize that the Redblacks will only be playing in their white road uniforms until July 18th, but I don’t mind at all. They look SO good

– The Sun’s Tim Baines lobbies for urinal toys at TD Place

– Apparently most Als fans were still celebrating France’s World Cup rout of the Swiss and couldn’t make it in time for kick-off

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1st Quarter:

– Jamill Smith returns the Als opening kickoff for a big gain, but that’s the only positive aspect of the Redblacks opening drive as Burris gets sacked twice behind a shaky offensive line

– Former NFL star Chad Johnson immediately gets involved, making a catch for a 1st down on the Als’ 1st play from scrimmage

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#85’s first and only catch of the game

– Rod Black’s talking point of the quarter is Chad Johnson and TSN’s cameras pan to show the dozen people wearing Cincinnati Bengal jerseys in the crowd

– Als string together a couple of first downs before their drive stalls and they punt for a single, 1-0 for the Habs

– Don’t tell Paris Jackson it’s just the pre-season, after an 8-yard catch he gets into a shoving match with Chip Cox on the sidelines

– Redblacks and Als trade two and outs as the defenses flex their muscles

– Jamill Smith gets nailed on a punt return but to his credit hangs onto the ball

– Burris gets hot and completes back to back long passes to Dobson Collins for 28 yards and Matt Carter for another 33 yards, bringing the ball to the Als 3 yard line

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Dobson Collins makes a big play

– Chevon Walker caps off the 65-yard, 3 play drive with a 3-yard rushing TD

– Als return man Larry Taylor exposes the Redblacks special teams coverage by rumbling 40 yards on the ensuing kickoff before being shoved out of bounds

– Troy Smith persists in his belief that his receivers are ten feet tall and his passes sail over open Als receivers

– An Als kicker wearing #00 (no 7) boots a  33 yard FG

– Quarter ends with Burris hitting Kierrie Johnson for another long first down gain

– Score is 7-4 Redblacks after 15 minutes

2nd Quarter:

– After an Als offside, Burris hits a wide open Johnson for a 36 yard catch and run which brings the ball to the 1

– Shrugging off a poor start, Burris now has 5 straight completions

– Walker gets his 2nd TD of the game waltzing in from the 1

– Larry Taylor has another huge kickoff return, ensuring the Redblacks special teams meeting on Monday morning will be laced with profanity

– Under heavy pressure Troy Smith scrambles half-way to Ottawa before finding Duron Carter for a 1st down

– Redblacks move the ball well on their next possession thanks to catches by Collins, Lavoie, Henry² (Burris to Marcus Henry), Walker and Delahunt

– Newly signed Brett Maher is wide on a 40-yard FG but Redblacks still pick up a rouge

– Rod Black’s talking points of the quarter are former Ticats and Chip Cox’s 2013 season

– Jason Pottinger has a crunching special teams tackle

– The Als’ not-James-Bond kicker #00 (Alavardo) makes a 27-yard FG

– With 1:22 left in the half, Burris leads the Redblacks on an 8 play, 85-yard drive in 1:16; Paris Jackson and Henry² both make impressive grabs to keep the drive alive which ends with a passing TD to Walker, his 3rd TD of the game.

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Chevy walks in untouched

– Hats rain down and Walker is quickly buried under an avalanche of caps from the R-Nation fans who made the trek to Montreal

– Score going into half is 22-7 for the good guys

3rd Quarter:

– Redblacks kickoff but quickly get the ball back thanks to heavy pressure forcing another Troy Smith incompletion and a Brandon Lang sack

– Burris, Walker and the rest of the Redblacks starters come out for another series that ends in a punt for a rouge before being pulled for the night

– Rod Black’s talking point of the quarter is Troy Smith’s inaccuracy

– On the Redblacks next possession, Thomas DeMarco enters the game

– Two plays later, Justin Palardy shanks a punt and the Redblacks are flagged for no yards, giving the Als great field position

– Tanner Marsh enters at QB for the Als

– Safety, pilot, CBA negotiator and free thinker Eric Fraser limps off the field after making a tackle with 7:12 left in the quarter

– Als kicker Sean Whyte makes a 19 yard FG to cut the Redblacks lead to 13

– Paul LaPolice talks about how coaches want to see “Nice, big, tall butts” when they look at their offensive line, Rod Black giggles

– WR Travon Patterson goes offside and DeMarco gets sacked

– Facing 3rd and a CN Tower, the Redblacks punt

– Quarter comes to a close on a turnover on downs when the Redblacks stuff the Als on a 3rd and 1 run

4th Quarter:

– Starting on the Als 25, Redblacks extend their lead to 26-10 after Brett Maher makes a 17-yard field goal

– Announced attendance at McGill Stadium is just over 18,000, undoubtedly bolstered by the legions of R-Nation who drove over to get their first look at the team in person

– DB Eddie Elder blitzes in untouched and ensures Marsh will need an ice bath with a blindside sack

– Rod Black’s talking points of the 4th quarter include waxing sentimental about cut down day and how meaningless the pre-season is as teams just want the regular season to start

– Danny O’Brien enters at QB with 7:04 left in the game but fails to move the ball

– You know it’s the pre-season when Henry Burris has a dance off with Jovon Johnson on the sidelines, independent judges confirm the Burris win

– 5:21, with an Als player down, Rod Black uses the word fermented, a 1st on TSN’s Friday Night Football history

– Alex Brink enters at QB for the Als and is quickly sacked by Zack Evans

– Als turn the ball over on downs again

– REDBLACKS WIN! Final score 26-10 for the out-of-towners!

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Final Thoughts:

The Redblacks got their 1st win in franchise history and even if it was only a pre-season one, it still counts and is a monkey off the young franchise’s back. There were many positive takeaways from this game; Burris went 17-of-22 for 247 yards and a TD in one half of work and running back Chevon Walker continued to show a nose for the goal line with 3 TDs. The offense was aggressive and stretched the field with long completions; Burris’ arm looks as strong as ever. The defense was also very solid, shutting the Als out of the endzone and bringing heavy pressure all night long. On the negative side, the Redblacks kick coverage teams continue to struggle as they consistently gave up long returns. They really need to tighten up their tackling or special teams will cost them during the regular season. With the win the Redblacks pre-season is over and it will be interesting to see who survives tomorrow’s final cuts. With a bye week coming up, the Redblacks will have a lot of time (13 days) to prepare for their Week 2 showdown with the Bombers in Winnipeg.

@RedBlackGade

– All images from CFL.ca and Scott Grant Photography