Ottawa RedBlacks know they ‘can be best team in division’
A week after giving up 48 points, the Ottawa RedBlacks have a bit of their swagger back.
Talking a big game isn’t easy when you get run over, when your offence, defence and special teams all fall flat, but that’s part of what this RedBlacks team has become — resilient and confident.
When the RedBlacks square off with the Argos at 4 p.m. Sunday in the Rogers Centre, they will have some familiar faces back on the defensive side of the ball.
Linebacker Travis Brown and defensive end Justin Phillips are back after extended absences and punter Andy Wilder, signed when Ottawa released Anthony Alix, will make his season debut.
For Brown, who suffered a shoulder injury making a tackle in Week 1 of this season in Montreal, it’s been difficult watching. He’s tried to remain useful on the sidelines during home games.
“It’s tough watching, it’s somewhat depressing,” said Brown. “I have a chance to be able to help the guys out from the sideline, but at the end of the day, that’s not what I want to be doing. I want to be on the field, I want to be helping the team.
“It’s toughest when the team is away. You feel like you’re just a spectator. When they’re away, there’s nothing I can do.”
Brown is eager to lower the boom on an Argonaut come Sunday, but it’s not like he’s had an internal countdown going on for a return to the lineup.
“This week was great. I’m feeling strong and ready to roll,” he said. “I’ve tried to buckle down and not think about how many games I have left because that makes it worse for me. I don’t really get caught up staring at the calendar. I don’t ever really get too nervous for games, but I’m starting to feel butterflies as we get closer to the game. It’s like the first game of the season for me. I’ve just gone through a long off-season.”
Brown said the RedBlacks are in a good frame of mind going to battle with the Argonauts, who, at 5-2, are tied for first place with Hamilton in the CFL East, one win ahead of 4-3 Ottawa.
“Last week (against Calgary), we gave up 21 points on turnovers; put any team in those circumstances and it’s tough to come back,” said Brown. “Those are self-inflicted things. But we’re not hanging our heads. We’re going to strap them back up and come back out, knowing we can be the best team in the division and in the league.”
RedBlacks defensive co-ordinator Mark Nelson said the Calgary game, where just about everything went wrong, is in the rear-view mirror.
“We didn’t coach very good and we didn’t execute very good,” he said. “We had about five plays that really hurt us. Usually there are about 5-6 plays that are the difference in the game and those were them. It was a team loss; it wasn’t defence, it wasn’t special teams, it wasn’t offence. It was a combination of all three of them.
“We’ve played some good teams and we’ve played some good ball. But we haven’t put it all together. We’re continually working hard to get better.”
Nelson said Ottawa’s defence will be pressed by an impressive Toronto offence, which has overcome adversity and the absence of several stars, including quarterback Ricky Ray, receiver Chad Owens and kicker Swayze Waters. Trevor Harris has stepped in as Toronto’s quarterback and been sensational.
“I think his first start was against us last year and he had a helluva game,” said Nelson. “We started his rise to fame. They do a real good job schematically offensively. They’ve got a great offence and we’ve got our hands full, but I think our kids will rise to the challenge.”
Ottawa’s offence and special teams will benefit from the presence of punt returner/receiver Chris Williams, who will return after missing the past two games.