Ticats head into 'Labour Day Classic' amid circus of attention
With new coach and quarterback, Hamilton will play 1st game since Art Briles fiasco
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats (0-8) haven't played since a 37-18 home loss to the Ottawa Redblacks on Aug. 18. The Ticats will have a new head coach (June Jones) and starting quarterback (Jeremiah Masoli) when they face the Toronto Argonauts (4-6) on Monday night.
But Hamilton is also coming off a contentious week that began with the hiring of former Baylor head coach Art Briles. But the move created a firestorm of criticism on social media, forcing the Ticats, with urging from the CFL, to rescind the offer less than 12 hours later.
Briles, 61, was fired in May 2016 as Baylor's head football coach after an investigation discovered the school mishandled numerous sexual assault allegations, including some against football players. But shortly after Hamilton reversed its offer, a letter of support for Briles from Baylor's general counsel surfaced.
Fortunately for the Ticats, their focus returns to football Monday. And for the Argos, that means preparing for the unexpected from an opponent with a new head coach and starting quarterback.
"It's a dangerous opponent because right now you have to be prepared for anything," Murray said. "We can't assume anything, we have to be confident in what we're going to do and the adjustments we're going to make."
Veteran Toronto linebacker Bear Woods agrees.
"It's kind of like going into a season, the first game with a whole new team," he said. "We're thankfully 10 games in to where conceptually we understand defensively what we do.
"You always hear coaches say, 'The first game of the year we're focused on ourselves and what we do.' That's the way we're going to be and whatever they put at us we've just got to know our role defensively and make adjustments when necessary."
Making adjustments is nothing new for a Toronto defence that's been plagued by injuries this year.
"We've had a lot of practice making adjustments, I can say that," said defensive back Rico Murray. "That's the one thing we've been great at, just making adjustments as a defence.
"We'll do what we do then we'll make the adjustments as we need to."
The Hamilton-Toronto Labour Day rivalry is one of the CFL's most heated, spanning 228 games. The Ticats lead the series 131-95-2 overall and have won three straight but have also dropped their last eight home contests.
Toronto also needs the win to move past Ottawa (4-6-1) and back atop the East Division. But head coach Marc Trestman, in his first season with the Argos, doesn't call Monday's contest a rivalry game.
"A rivalry is about the fans and I think that's really important from that standpoint," Trestman said. "Every game carries the weight of a rivalry game, so to speak, in our minds.
"But as I said to the guys, if that's important to you I don't want to limit you from using that aspect of this game to get ready to play. Do whatever you have to do to get ready but from my standpoint it's more about us going out and playing smart, consistent, hard-nosed, fundamentally sound football on a play-by-play basis."
Trestman said the Argos won't be fooled by the Ticats' record.
"We've got guys who've been in that locker-room and they're guys just like us, they're coaches just like us," he said. "In a humble, hard-working fashion we know we've got to be ready.
"If we're not, there's really good players and coaches over there in Hamilton and they'll take advantage of that if we let our guard down."