‘Ottawa’ Redblacks could be getting stronger with duo looking to return
Four games into the CFL season, the Ottawa Redblacks are at the top of the country in most offensive statistics.
Now, there’s welcome news coming defensively, as well.
Defensive backs Jerrell Gavins and Forrest Hightower, who both missed last Wednesday’s come-from-behind 30-23 victory over the Toronto Argos due to injuries, are expected to return for Friday’s game in Regina against the winless Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Hightower was out with a concussion while Gavins was dealing with an undisclosed lower body injury, but both went through Monday’s two-hour practice at TD Place without a hitch.
“We’re very hopeful that Hightower and Gavins will be back,” Redblacks coach Rick Campbell said. “Every indication is that’s what is going to happen, but we’ll go through practice this week and see how it goes.”
Offensive lineman Jason Lauzon-Seguin, who missed the Argos game with a concussion, is also on track to join the Redblacks for Thursday’s charter flight out west.
While Gavins naturally dreaded sitting out the Argos game along with Hightower, he was proud of how their replacements stepped into the void.
“As you get older, it’s not that you care less, but you find other ways to support and motivate the dudes and myself as well,” he said. “Instead of moping, I (could) use the week to get ahead and that’s what I did.”
The time off served as another reminder that some one else is always pushing, aiming to get playing time wherever possible. Unlike the early days of the franchise, the Redblacks have proven they can survive injuries.
“We’ve got depth,” Gavins said. “The boys want to compete, they want to play. And if you think about it, that they’re hungry, it keeps me hungry, too. They played pretty well. The CFL game is different. Out here, there are things that (an import) has never seen before. There are tons of formations, extra receivers moving around all the time. I think they played a hell of a game.”
Gavins also singled out cornerback Tristan Jackson. In addition to starting his first CFL game in the defensive backfield, Jackson also broke a 20-20 tie in the fourth quarter, returning a punt 75 yards for a touchdown — the first punt return TD in Redblacks history.
“He was doing double duty, kudos to him,” he said.
Antoine Pruneau, who is enjoying another strong start, believes the strong internal competition pays big dividends on game day.
“Whoever is playing is doing an awesome job,” Pruneau said. There is a little adjustment to play with new guys, but there are enough veterans in here to take the lead.
“Every time we’re on this field practicing, not only are we trying to get ready for the next team, but we’re defending our positions.”
BEWARE OF OVERCONFIDENCE
The statistics might tend to tell a certain story leading up Friday’s game in Regina.
The Redblacks are the CFL’s only undefeated squad and Saskatchewan is the CFL’s only winless team. Home teams have posted a meagre 3-12-1 record so far.
On top of all that, the Redblacks could dodge Roughriders No. 1 quarterback Darian Durant, who suffered an ankle sprain in Saturday’s 40-27 loss to the B.C. Lions. Mitchell Gale could get the call.
For all that, though, the Redblacks insist they can’t allow overconfidence to enter their dressing room.
“Mitchell Gale is always prepared,” said Redblacks quarterback Trevor Harris, who worked closely with Gale when both served as understudies with the Argos.
“As a No. 3 in Toronto, he was just as prepared as Ricky (Ray) and myself. He’s highly intelligent.”
Harris also has the utmost respect for Roughriders coach and GM Chris Jones, who, as the former field boss of Edmonton, stopped the Redblacks from winning the Grey Cup last season.
“He is as good of a recruiter as there is,” Harris said. “It’s only a matter of time until they gel. There are no off weeks in this league. As we know, anybody can beat anybody.”
Pruneau isn’t getting lost in the Roughriders losing record. He insists Saskatchewan “has one of the best groups of receivers” in the CFL.
He’s also prepared for the sea of green throughout Regina.
“Everywhere we go in this league, you’re going to find a Roughriders fan, a green jersey in the seats,” he said. “The involvement of the community is really big. You absolutely see it on game day. It’s kind of like what we had the first year in Ottawa. The fans understand what they’re trying to do.”