“This one stings.” -- Coach Trestman.
“I don’t like Thanksgiving,” confesses Jamel Richardson. “Every time you go home for Thanksgiving, that means y’all lost. You ain’t goin’ to the Grey Cup so...it’s tough.”
Garbage Bag Day, the most humbling ritual in pro sports, came less than 24 hours after the Argos stunned the Alouettes. Shea Emry showed the subtle savvy of veteran experience---he ditched the garbage bag for a suitcase on wheels, not just because he has to pack for the CFL Awards Ceremony without the rest of his teammates save for Josh Bourke.
Through the emotion and the disappointment came a sense that a team with a dozen potential free agents may not have to go through nearly as much transition this offseason as last. GM Jim Popp insisted he would carry no regrets into the offseason, not even after ex-Alouette defector Chad Owens set a Toronto receiving record and Als returner du jour Trent Guy failed to spark any field position advantage.
“This is the first time since 1998-99 that we haven’t made it to Grey Cup in 2 straight years,” noted Popp, who made no secret of the fact Calvillo and McPherson, their bodyguards Perrett and Woodruff, ballhawks Seth Williams and Dwight Anderson, not to mention the ill-fated Brian Bratton all have deals expiring in February.
At least one Alouette player revealed he will carry some baggage over the winter, while another is being urged to lay his burden down.
“It’s very disheartening, man, to know this team won’t be back together, I think that’s the hardest part of it all,” says all-star safety Kyries Hebert, “Knowing this was the last time we’ll have this group of guys together and this was our shot. We didn’t take advantage of this opportunity.”
Hebert was still seeing red over the “Double Blue” mayhem-maker Ejiro Kuale, who coincidentally enraged Hebert on the very same special teams play when Marc-Olivier Brouillette was knocked out of the game. “He’s a bit of a dirty ___-hole player and he’s going see me next year, so I won’t forget,” vowed Hebert. “He’s going to have to deal with me cuz I am who I am every day.”
“So he picked one day to try to be excited and do jerkish-type things, but he’ll see me again. He picked the wrong person and it’s not gonna end on one day. I’m coming back next year and my teammates are coming back next year and we won’t forget what it was like yesterday.”
“The officials let it happen. That’s ok. Next time I see him it’ll be face-to-face and he’s gonna get what I have for him.”
The CFL’s hardest hitter threatens to have a long memory. Question is, should Bratton have a short memory?
Jamel Richardson has advice for the usually sure-handed receiver unfairly captured as the image of failure when a potential game-tying touchdown pass nearly impaled his chest and bounced to the turf.
"Football doesn’t come down to 1 play,” reminds J-Rich. “At the end of the day Bratton should use this as motivation. Use this as a building block for him and coming in next year and killing this league.” “He should play with a chip on his shoulder, but he shouldn’t shoulder this loss. This was a total team loss.”
“No doubt we’re the better team than the Argos...but that’s the way the cookie crumbles,” says Dwight Anderson, who hopes to sit down with Popp and would love to get a contract extension done soon. “I really enjoyed being part of this organization and this city and I hope to be a part of it for a few more years.”
Those were the kinds of words that would not or could not flow form Anthony Calvillo’s mouth. He’ll take 2 weeks to unplug and confer with his wife Alexia. The truth is Head Coach Marc Trestman and Popp, not to mention AC’s teammates will be stunned if he announces a sudden retirement...as sudden as it can be for a quarterback at 40.
“I don’t want this thing to drag on,” Calvillo admits.
Popp needs to know because the biggest chunk of salary cap space is invested in the QB position. The GM won’t be surprised if both AC AND Adrian McPherson are back in ’13.
“I feel there was unbelievable ‘buy-in’ collectively from everyone so it’s kinda hard to see everyone packing up their things,” admitted McPherson, who certainly deserves a shot at No. 1 status somewhere.
If the Als needed evidence the healing has already begun, they needed only look in their midst. Brouillette appeared, stiff-necked, but a welcome sight the day after he was rolled off the turf on a stretcher.
“It was definitely a scary incident,” admits the Montreal-native. “All you can see is the ceiling of the Big O and the next thing you know there are 10 or 15 people around you and they’re calling in the ambulance. I got pretty nervous...but we expect a full recovery over the next week or so.”
“I actually found out the end result while I was still strapped down in the hospital, so it was a tough pill to swallow. At the end of the day I came out with my health and a lot of the guys here did also. It was a game I think we deserved to win...”
The Alouette to shine the brightest in defeat, Chris Jennings, wants only to prove himself all over again, and to prove that healing is bonding. His overtures to Popp were rejected before training camp 2012, but when the injury plague opened up Brandon Whitaker’s job, Jennings seized opportunity.
“I can only control my training and what I do, but Brandon’s my guy, man,” says Jennings, who bolted for the NFL from the obscurity of the Als’ practise roster when he and B-Whit were stuck behind Avon Cobourne. “We came here together in ’09—I was here in ’08, came back in ’09 and he was here with me and I love that cat. He grinds real hard, he works real hard and I work real hard.”
“We’re going to link up together in the offseason and try to work out together and hopefully come back and be a 1-2 punch. We have Noel Devine that could be a 1-2-3 punch and we have so many weapons in this offense and we could contribute in so many ways that it’s scary.”
Unless the Als can find some fixes on defense and the return game, they may need all those weapons for #13 in ’13.