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Inside the CFL: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

By Ted Michaels, CFL Columnist

Hamilton, ON (Sports Network) - It had emotion, exhilaration, drama ... and an uncomfortable moment.

Some thoughts on the week that was, opening week in the CFL:

The Good

The regular season lid-lifter saw the Winnipeg Blue Bombers hosting the Montreal Alouettes at the new, $200 million Investors Group Field.

The game had everything. Tyron Carrier, a University of Houston grad, scored on an exciting 77-yard punt return, the first for the Als since mid August of 2009. Later in the game, Winnipeg's Demond Washington, an Auburn product, electrified the sellout crowd of 33,500, with an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown.

While the Bombers fell just short, losing 38-33, players and coaches on both teams raved about the new facility and how loud it was. If you think of CenturyLink Field, the home of the Seattle Seahawks, you'll get an idea what the new stadium looks like. The steel canopies that cover 80 percent of the seats no doubt help to deflect the crowd noise back down to the field.

Despite the fact the Blue Bombers let the game get away from them, their fans should be encouraged that their stadium may become the loudest in the CFL, and the 13th man may become a factor as the season unfolds.

The Good, Part 2

The pictures were absolutely heartbreaking.

The recent flooding in Calgary, and other towns in Southern Alberta, meant thousands of people were evacuated from their homes, and when they returned, they faced a horrendous clean-up job.

Last Friday night, the Calgary Stampeders hosted the BC Lions in a rematch of last year's Western Final.

The outcome, a 44-32 win by the Stamps, shouldn't have come as a surprise.

Slotback Nik Lewis, who lives in a condo near the flooded Calgary Saddledome and Stampede Park, and therefore had to be evacuated himself, summed up the feelings of his teammates when he said, "I think it's a great time for people to come out and focus on something positive and just be able to enjoy life for a couple hours again and get your mind off the flood. I think it will be pretty electric in here.

"I just want to represent the city of Calgary. I want to do that in a positive way and go out there and put on a great show for the fans and people on TV."

That they did.

Another Stampeder, running back Jon Cornish, went one step further. Before the game, he said he'd donate $10 for every yard he picked up against the Lions.

Cornish ended up donating $1,920, from his 172 yards rushing and 20 yards receiving. Before the game, Calgary's mayor, Naheed Nenshi, received two standing ovations when he spoke to the crowd and thanked the first responders and citizens who helped out.

Overall, Stampeders fans raised $83,968.50 for the Canadian Red Cross' flood relief work. When the Stampeders' on-line campaign is factored in, the total stood in excess of $107,000.

And just to show the CFL and its fans are one when disaster strikes, the Stampeders' arch-rivals, the Edmonton Eskimos, raised over $550,000 in various ways for flood relief at their home opener.

That's a good thing, because, unfortunately, the Eskimos take No. 1 in the next category.

The Bad

At the start of the season, the Eskimos brass expressed concern about the play of the Eskimos' offensive line, and indicated it had to play better.

It appears they had every reason to be concerned.

In their home opener Saturday afternoon, the Eskimos were throttled by the Saskatchewan Roughriders, 39-18.

Quarterback Mike Reilly, who was making his first start since signing with the Eskimos in the offseason, was hit 19 times, hurried 23 more times, and was sacked three times in the loss. Reilly, the Central Washington product, was good on just 17-of-35 passes for 259 yards with three interceptions and one touchdown pass. Mercifully, he was pulled and replaced by former Tennessee Volunteer Jonathan Crompton, who completed 6-for-11 passes for 70 yards.

Edmonton head coach Kavis Reed said after the game, "It's definitely not a panic situation, we'd better not panic. If we panic, then we put ourselves in an adverse situation that we may not be able to get out of."

"It's Week 1 of an 18-game regular season. This is an education game. This is one of those ones where you dissect every situation. I look at my management, I look at the play-calling, I look at the performance."

Many are already looking at the Eskimos' performance, both on and off the field. Reed and general manager Ed Hervey are already being criticized by the media, for not releasing their final cuts, practice roster and roster spots by the league-mandated deadline.

Hervey seems to be spending way too much time, distancing himself from former Eskimos GM Eric Tillman, and talking about how things will change with him at the helm.

"I've had two opportunities to see different managerial methods. You see good and you see bad. You see some things you would change. But they're all lessons," Hervey said at the news conference when he was named the new GM.

"We've changed directions and now we're headed in a direction we're more used to going in -- a calm, steady road to winning games. We're going to be on the same page. We're going to communicate. And we're going to do things right. This organization deserves better than it's got in the last several years. We're no longer going to be perceived as a sideshow.

"I want to make it very clear. This is not about me. This is about the Edmonton Eskimos. This is about our team. Our organization. Our direction. I'm not interested in the accolades of the work I do. I believe in our culture here. I believe in Edmonton. I believe our fans want something to believe in. And that's what we're here today for, to give them some hope that we're going to turn things around, that we're going to change things."

While it's early, the reviews are not good, and if the Eskimos continue to free fall, it appears Reed may be the first coaching casualty this season. And Reed, one of the truly nice guys in the CFL, deserves better.

The Ugly

He wore out his welcome in Hamilton, Calgary and Montreal. You wonder if he's on borrowed time in Saskatchewan.

Roughriders cornerback Dwight Anderson was given two objectionable conduct penalties on the same play during the Riders' win in Edmonton.

Sources tell Inside the CFL that Anderson received the first flag for making the "choke" sign at the Edmonton bench, an automatic penalty. Then, once he realized he received a penalty, Anderson went ballistic, launching into an obscenity-laced tirade at side judge Dave Foxcroft. Anderson had to be restrained by his teammates on the sideline.

All in all, it was an uncomfortable moment, but not surprising. In 2011, while playing for Montreal, Anderson was accused of deliberately poking the left eye of Saskatchewan receiver Weston Dressler. That same year, Anderson was accused of spitting at fans following a game at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton.

One would suggest, enough is enough.

Ted Michaels is the host of the Fifth Quarter on AM900 CHML.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? - Ted.Michaels@corusent.com.

07/01 10:01:04 ET


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