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Suitor: Parity rules over first two weeks of CFL campaign

Glen Suitor
7/9/2013 3:21:29 PM
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After the first two weeks of the regular season in the CFL, parity seems to be the word to best describe what has unfolded. The Saskatchewan Roughriders are the only 2-0 team, and the Tiger-Cats are the only 0-2 team but could easily have been in the .500 club if not for a dropped screen pass in the second-to-last play of Week 1 versus the Argos.

The league's offences got off to a fast start in Week 1 with the four opening games producing a total of 277 points, or an average of 69.3 points/game. That average was the third highest scoring first week in the league's history.

In Week 2 the defensive coordinators decided enough was enough, and shaved a hundred points off the top and dropped the total count to 177 points or 44.25/game, although a monsoon in Guelph also contributed.

There were a few other interesting developments over the first two weeks that are worth noting. The first that comes to mind is the new wave of receivers that seems to be emerging. With Geroy Simon missing both games to start the season due to injury, the position's all-time leader and senior statesman is still looking for his first catch as a Saskatchewan Roughrider.

Nik Lewis, who has known nothing but 1,000-yard seasons in his nine years in the CFL, currently ranks 16th amongst CFL pass catchers. The Alouettes' Jamel Richardson, who is entering his tenth season, finds himself out of the top 20 after the first two weeks of the CFL season.

Cliche time - "It's not where you start but where you finish." I'm sure that all three veterans will start to take their games up a notch and climb back up the list. In fact Simon (age 37) said prior to the Riders game against Calgary that he probably could have played in the contest and will be ready to go this week if the coach and training staff give him the green light. And as long as they stay healthy, Lewis (31) and Richardson (31) will have their big games, and when the dust settles will be past the 1,000-yard mark.

However, football fans could be witnessing the beginning of a changing of the guard at the receiver position. It may not be completed this year or even next, but there are some talented young receivers who are quickly making names for themselves.

Calgary's Joe West is a big target with strong hands who can also run by people, as witnessed in Calgary's first passing play of Week 2 vs. Saskatchewan when he caught a 64-yard deep ball. He would add a touchdown in that contest, his third of the season after two weeks.

Nick Moore of the BC Lions had a monster game in Week 2 in his club's home opener, pulling in six catches for 107 yards. Moore, who is actually lining up in Simon's old position, currently ranks fourth among CFL receivers after two weeks. There are also a couple of young Canadian receivers making some noise early and will be interesting to watch, including the Bombers' Cory Watson who is just outside of the top 10 and the Eskimos' Nate Coehorn, who is only two spots back of Watson.

Also of note after the first two weeks was the first on-field incident that forced the league's head office to hand out the first fine of the 2013 season. In cased you missed it Saskatchewan's Dwight Anderson in Week 1 in Edmonton made what the officials believed was a "throat thrashing" gesture. Anderson aggressively disagreed with the call on the field and proceeded to get a second objectionable conduct penalty, and eventually the fine was added to the punishment.

What was not reported was the way that head coach Corey Chamblin handled his players' lack of composure. Following the game the team levied its own fine, and asked that Dwight Anderson do some volunteer work in the community. Chamblin explained his philosophy on the punishment when he said, "I think honestly that a player's time is more important to them than their money, so when it comes to fines, I think they will better get the message if I take their time not their money."

However Chamblin wasn't done just yet. His philosophy in cases like the Anderson case is to try and help the player first as a person and second as a football player. Chamblin said, "every one of us can improve ourselves, and I want to help Dwight improve as a person first, then the rest will take care of itself."

As the third part of Anderson's punishment Chamblin made the veteran defensive back read a book. Yes, in fact he said that they would both read a book written by Jon Gordon called, "The Energy Bus," and then discuss it together. The book is essentially about how we approach life and work, and how to do it in a positive and forward thinking way.

It will be interesting to see how Dwight Anderson responds to what is a refreshingly unique and genuine approach by Corey Chamblin.

And finally, speaking of discipline, the Ticats' Chris Williams continues to be a topic of discussion, even thought the returner/receiver is sitting out the season over a contract dispute.

Lindsey Lamar, the five-foot-nine speedster out of South Florida, is the main reason that Williams' name has come up as much as it has in the first two weeks. Lamar is making Tiger-Cat fans forget about Williams in a hurry, as he already has registered a kick return touchdown, and despite some ball handling issues in the monsoon game against Edmonton in Guelph - which produced enough rain to drown a duck - Lamar in about a month in the Hammer has become one of the those guys that gets you up out of your seat every time he touches the ball.

I also have to respectfully disagree with my colleague at TSN, Milt Stegall, who suggested that the Ticats have somehow disrespected Williams in a recent panel hit? For the record, it was Williams and his first agent that made the mistake of signing the first contract. Also, while actual numbers have not been made public, it is rumoured that once Williams received NFL interest the Ticats offered him an extension that would have compensated him handsomely, by CFL standards. If he didn't want to extend, because he wanted to give the NFL a shot after this season, I'm sure Tiger-Cats owner Bob Young would have been fine with negotiating better money in the 2013 season to ensure he would honour the last year on his deal.

Williams is making a mistake or getting bad advice or both. A football player's window to play is very small at the best of times. If the tiny returner is afraid of getting hurt by playing out his contract in Hamilton, he should be reminded that you can get hurt in a light strip workout in the off-season, or lifting weights in a gym. Football players have to work on improving every day, because you can bet that the guy they are competing with in camp is improving, and sitting out a year will not help Chris Williams improve his game.

The CFL gave Williams a chance when no one knew who he was. If there is any one that has been disrespected here, it is the Canadian Football League and the Hamilton organization, by Chris Williams.



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