Gi­rard will be the cen­tre of at­ten­tion

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - DREW ED­WARDS

His Ti­cat team­mates call Mathieu Gi­rard “Chewy” so maybe he’ll be good at space travel.

The Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats of­fen­sive line­man is likely to make his first Cana­dian Foot­ball League start this Fri­day against the Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos, fill­ing in for in­jured cen­tre Mike Filer. While that would be daunt­ing enough, the unique de­mands of the po­si­tion make it even more chal­leng­ing.

“It’s like an as­tro­naut go­ing up for the first time. Stuff is fly­ing by, you can’t see any­thing, it’s a lit­tle bit scary,” Filer said. “But the sec­ond or third time you go up, you’re like, ‘Well, I’ve done this be­fore, I know what to ex­pect,’ and it slows down.”

Filer is try­ing to ex­pe­dite that process for the sopho­more Mathieu Gi­rard, who is slated to fill in while Filer re­cov­ers from an an­kle in­jury suf­fered late in last week’s win over the Mon­treal Alou­ettes. Though Gi­rard has ap­peared in 21 games since be­ing se­lected by Hamil­ton in the sixth round of the 2014 CFL draft, Fri­day’s game against the Eski­mos would be his first ca­reer start.

On any given of­fen­sive play, Gi­rard must iden­tify the de­fence, make pro­tec­tion calls, re­mem­ber the snap count, man­age the play clock, snap the ball ef­fec­tively and then han­dle his as­sign­ment (which on Fri­day will likely in­clude a heavy dose of Ed­mon­ton de­fen­sive tackle Al­mondo Sewell, a 2015 CFL all-star.)

Filer says the pre­dictable things — a solid week in prac­tice, film study, lis­ten­ing to the sage wis­dom of his vet­eran team­mates — will help, but only up to a cer­tain point.

“There’s noth­ing that pre­pares a player for foot­ball — not prac­tice, not train­ing camp, not watch­ing film — like play­ing foot­ball,” Filer said.

“We can get men­tally pre­pared and get him com­fort­able, but the rest is on him.”

One key sign that things aren’t go­ing well: a de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in the qual­ity of Gi­rard’s snaps. Sim­ple as it sounds, the cen­tre’s pri­mary job is to pro­vide the quar­ter­back with the foot­ball in a safe and timely mat­ter, and a fail­ure to do so in­evitably leads to chaos.

“Typ­i­cally what hap­pens is that you have so much go­ing on in your mind that your fun­da­men­tals start to break down,” Filer said. “Once that hap­pens, you have a hole in the boat.”

Gi­rard is just 25, and the first in a long line of Ti­cat cen­tres with­out a nat­u­rally out­sized per­son­al­ity (Carl Coul­ter be­gat Mar­wan Hage who be­gat Filer). But that even keel might come in handy when the rock­ets start to rum­ble un­der his seat on Fri­day.

“I just need to keep work­ing and stay fo­cused on the game, not get too stressed out by all the stuff go­ing on around me,” Gi­rard said. “Snap­ping the foot­ball is the most im­por­tant thing I have to do. Af­ter that I can just play foot­ball.” And help de­feat the Em­pire. Notes: Head coach Kent Austin said X-rays on Filer’s an­kle came back neg­a­tive. “He’s got some more test­ing to do but it looks like he dodged a bul­let on a much more se­ri­ous in­jury. Hope­fully, he won’t be out too long.” ... Austin said quar­ter­back Zach Col­laros is mak­ing progress in his re­hab from a knee in­jury but it’s “ex­tremely un­likely” he’ll play Fri­day. “He’s on sched­ule ac­cord­ing to what the doc­tors have told us and he’s do­ing well in prac­tice,” Austin said. “We’re in­creas­ing his reps and wait­ing to see if there are any com­pli­ca­tions.” ... Ti­cat de­fen­sive end Adrian Tracy was named a CFL top per­former of the week af­ter reg­is­ter­ing ca­reer highs in tack­les (11), sacks (2) and forced fum­bles in the win over Mon­treal. “”Any time you have a game like that it gets the mon­key off your back, es­pe­cially for me — I didn’t have a sack yet,” Tracy said. “I was jok­ing with the guys that I have to step up to the plate.”


Ti­cats cen­tre Mike Filer won’t play against Ed­mon­ton on Satur­day.


Mathieu Gi­rard, right, gets his first start at cen­tre for the Tiger-Cats on Satur­day.

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