Avery Williams, Keion Julian-Grant, Dionté Ruffin, Sean Jamieson: these are all players on whom the Montreal Alouettes could finally count on within their training.
The return to play of the first three seems more imminent: Jamieson played in the center of the offensive line which trained with the substitute quarterbacks on Tuesday near the Olympic Stadium. Combined with the arrival of linebacker Darnell Sankey, hired Monday, the possible returns to the game of Williams and Ruffin on defense and Julien-Grant on offense could give a great helping hand to the Alouettes (6-6) against the Toronto Argonauts (10-1), Friday, at Percival-Molson Stadium.
Because the Alouettes really need reinforcements: they were dominated 39-10 by these same Argos last Saturday, their third consecutive loss and above all, sixth in a row against the three leading teams in the circuit: Argos, Lions and Blue Bombers.
“Ruffin has worked hard to be back, which will be beneficial for us,” said Maas, in good spirits despite his team’s recent failures.
“Williams is another one who is going in the right direction,” added the coach. He’s one of the guys we’re looking forward to returning, as is Keion Julien-Grant. »
“These guys are finally close to a return and we will make a decision later this week. »
On Sankey’s side, it is not a question of health, but rather of acclimatization to the playbook of defensive coordinator, Noel Thorpe. Based on what we saw on Tuesday, Sankey should play the middle linebacker position.
“He has to learn the system and be in good physical condition. If he is able to meet our expectations, he will be on the field. »
“Oh yeah, I’m in great shape,” noted Sankey, who won the XFL championship with the Arlington Renegades this spring. I haven’t stopped training since the end of the season [de la XFL] and I was hoping to get a call from the CFL. »
Sankey, who previously played for the Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders, said he received several offers from the Ambrosie circuit, but that Montreal was the best choice.
“In talking with my agent and my family, with some friends I have within the club as well – Sean Lemon, Cody Fajardo – I came to the conclusion that Montreal was the best choice for me. »
Sankey notably mentioned that the Alouettes players with whom he spoke all told him of the great professionalism of the organization and the way in which Maas treats his players.
For Maas, Sankey brings experience and leadership to a group that has been greatly affected by injuries this season.
“He’s a tenacious and formidable tackler,” he said. He brings presence to this position, where we still count on a certain depth. With players who have been called upon to play more often due to injuries, we find that we come into the stretch with a much more experienced group of linebackers than we did at the start of the season. »
Running back William Stanback, however, suffered a right hand injury against the Argos and was limited in practice on Tuesday.
“He’s a little bruised and that’s something we’re going to pay attention to this week,” Maas noted. We will only make a decision in his case before the meeting. »
Mack will have to control his emotions
The head coach obviously returned to the indiscipline of the receiver — No. 1 in the CFL so far — Austin Mack, who was expelled from the game in the first quarter, while his club was already falling behind 17-7.
Mack did not appreciate being thrown to the ground by Toronto defensive back Qwan’tez Stiggers. Once up, Mack delivered a blow to his opponent’s head and he was immediately punished.
Maas said he has spoken several times since the incident with Mack to make him understand that such selfishness on his part was unacceptable. Maas also fined his pass catcher.
“You should never punch an opponent on a pitch in this league. If you do, you must know that you will be expelled,” insisted Maas.
“I spoke with him when the decision was made, in the locker room after the game, on the flight home and once by text the next day. I think he knows my opinion on the subject and he got the message. »
“I want to quickly turn the page on this incident,” said Mack, who clearly did not feel like discussing this misconduct at length. I understand that I can’t put the team in trouble like this. »
“However, I believe that I play while respecting the opponent and it was a way for me to show that I did not accept that people were lacking in my place. However, I have to control my emotions. »
This is the second time in as many games that the Alouettes have been deprived of one of their key players due to their indiscipline. Two weeks ago against the British Columbia Lions, linebacker Tyrice Beverette was also sent off following an act of indiscipline.
Maas was very clear in his message to the players after this second incident.
“When you do things like that, you hurt the whole team, not just yourself. I think everyone understands that we will not accept this kind of behavior. »