The numbers are down this season for Jamel Richardson but the Montreal Alouettes' top receiver feels better times are ahead.
The six-foot-three slotback led the Canadian Football League a year ago with 112 catches for 1,777 yards when he was clearly the favourite target of quarterback Anthony Calvillo in the first season after the retirement of veteran Ben Cahoon.
Five games into the 2012 campaign, Richardson is 12th in the league with 300 yards on 22 catches. After hauling in 11 touchdown passes a year ago, he's still looking for his first.
And the pre-season talk from some quarters of a 2,000-yard season already looks out of reach.
"Numbers don't matter to me," Richardson said Wednesday. "Grey Cups matter to me. Bonuses at the end of the year matter to me. Just trying to help my team get wins is the most important thing."
The Alouettes (2-3) are off to their worst start since 2008. If they lose Friday night to the Blue Bombers in Winnipeg they'd fall to 2-4 for the first time since the team returned to Montreal in 1996.
It should help that slotback Brian Bratton will return after missing two games with a hamstring problem, giving Calvillo a full complement of experienced receivers.
Mostly unchanged from a year ago, Montreal's offence has been an enigma this season.
Calvillo continues to lead the league in passing yards with 1,633. His 11 TD tosses is second to Hamilton's Henry Burris with 15, but the Allouettes have moved the ball in fits and starts, looking as overpowering as ever for a quarter or two, and then falling flat.
And the 39-year-old pivot has been distributing the ball differently, with Brandon London now the leading receiver with 19 catches for 357 followed by S.J. Green with 22 for 345 yards. Richardson is third on the team.
"I have to be patient, everything will open up," Richardson said. "Having Bratton back is definitely going to help.
"He was on top of his game before he went out. He was our leading receiver. It'll be exciting to have us all together out there."
Calvillo said it would be tough for any player to match the numbers Richardson put up last season, especially with defences playing him tighter. He his coming off a promising 82-yard performance in a 23-20 loss last week to Toronto, which often double-teamed him.
"There's always high expectations for this team and he is no different," said Calvillo. "They know he's a big weapon for us and they'll do what they can to take him away from us.
"We're going to continue to draw up plays for him, but I can't try to force balls into people. I'll go with my reads and get the ball to the open guys. But J-Rich will get his share of primary routes."
'I get this sense that I belong here'
This season, it is London who has made many of the spectacular plays. His 18.8 yards per catch is best among the league's top 10 receivers.
And the Richmond, Va., native, whose energy and upbeat personality has only recently become known to the media, likes being a regular contributor after being used sparingly in most of his first two seasons in Montreal.
"I've never been this comfortable in this offence, and that's not from the standpoint of knowing the Xs and Os," said London. "It's my third year up here and I get this sense that I belong here. I belong with this team and with this hall of fame quarterback.
"It just makes it easier. And now that the ball's coming my way, it's a humbling feeling. Most guys might let success go to their head and think 'I'm the man' and walk around Montreal and see if they can get a free cheeseburger or something. But to me, just the journey, that my hard work is paying off, makes me step up my game even more because I don't want this feeling to end."
London has taken to using the word "wavy" to describe his frame of mind.
The word comes from New York rapper Max B's tune, I'm So Wavy.
He defined it as "a certain type of swag. I hate the word swag only because it's been overused and it's for little kids. So wavy is like a type of toughness.
"You think of swagger and it's just people with baggy jeans, a big chain. Wavy is a certain moxie you carry around. You're fresh, but you're tough at the same time. So I'm fresh enough to score a touchdown and I'm tough enough to hit a wedge [play on special teams]."
That was interesting given that last season the Blue Bombers dubbed Winnipeg as Swaggerville.
"I definitely don't want this to be a distraction, but it's something the team's embraced," added London. "Coach Trestman doesn't mind me running around at practice yelling stuff like that, so if it's something that will bring us together, especially with the new guys we have, you embrace that. Wavy's a motivator."
Actually, Trestman said he'd have to look it up on Google to find out what it means.
Kick returner Trent Guy is to miss the Winnipeg game with a rib injury. Victor Anderson and Bo Bowling are to share returning duties.
Trestman said defensive lineman J. P. Bekasiak will miss four-to-six weeks with a knee injury.