Ptaszek looks for­ward to ex­panded role,


The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - DREW ED­WARDS

For the third straight sea­son, the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats will have a new of­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor: his name is Stef Ptaszek.

Of course, Ptaszek held the ti­tle last year but it would be a stretch to say that he ful­filled the du­ties in the tra­di­tional sense.

Hired on May 5 af­ter the sud­den de­par­ture of Tommy Con­dell, just weeks be­fore the open­ing of train­ing camp, Ptaszek faced a learn­ing curve that re­sem­bled the Che­doke stairs — steep, un­re­lent­ing and pre­car­i­ous.

“It was al­most an im­pos­si­ble job last year for him,” ac­knowl­edged head coach Kent Austin. “He’s come a long way in his un­der­stand­ing,”

Af­ter 13 sea­sons coach­ing at the Cana­dian uni­ver­sity level, in­clud­ing the last 10 as the head coach at McMaster, Ptaszek had to learn an en­tirely new of­fen­sive sys­tem — the one de­signed by Austin — as well as the nu­ances of the pro­fes­sional game.

The chal­lenges were big — scout­ing re­ports on de­fen­sive play­ers and schemes for the other eight teams — and small: the names of 100 or so Ti­cats play­ers, coaches and staff.

“I’ve al­ways been good with not hav­ing all the an­swers and the amount of things I was able to ab­sorb was out­stand­ing,” Ptaszek said. “I was proud of the role I was able to play but that role needs to ex­pand in or­der to help us go­ing for­ward. I’m look­ing for­ward to do­ing that.”

Last sea­son, Austin han­dled much of the game plan­ning, the script­ing for prac­tice — what plays the of­fence will run — and called plays from his head­set on the side­line.

This year, Ptaszek ex­pects the of­fen­sive staff to take over the first two, which should, in the­ory, al­low for the third to fol­low.

“I think coach Austin knew he had a bur­den to sup­port us on a reg­u­lar ba­sis through­out last year,” Ptaszek said.

“But we’ve got to be more in­de­pen­dent and al­low coach to cherry pick when he can step in and feel com­pletely con­fi­dent when he needs to step out. And that’s dif­fer­ent from last year,” Ptaszek added.

It’s not like Austin doesn’t have other things to worry about.

The team will have a new de­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor in Jeff Reinebold — who moves over from spe­cial teams — while new­comer Den­nis McKnight takes charge of the kick and cov­er­age units.

But how much in­de­pen­dence Austin gives Ptaszek, how­ever, re­mains to be seen: he’s yet to of­fi­cially hand over the play-call­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

The ex-CFL QB has stressed the col­lec­tive na­ture of his of­fen­sive phi­los­o­phy but what the Ti­cats run is usu­ally re­ferred to as “Austin’s of­fence.”

“Game plan­ning is a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort with all of us, it’s not just me hav­ing my fin­gers in the pie — as long as it’s ap­ple or blue­berry,” Austin said. “Ev­ery­body has their prover­bial fin­gers in the pie. Roles and ex­pec­ta­tions as to how the game plan is ar­rived at is clearly de­lin­eated and I have a role in that, Stef has a role in that, the other coaches have a role in that.”

With the ben­e­fit of a full off-sea­son, Ptaszek spent the winter study­ing of­fen­sive strate­gies from across the CFL as well as ex­pand­ing his knowl­edge of de­fen­sive cov­er­ages and con­cepts.

“The thing about Stef is that he has a very high ceil­ing be­cause he’s very bright. He’s also a guy who’s hum­ble enough to want to learn and he has a great de­sire to be good,” Austin said. “He worked re­ally hard this off-sea­son and I think you’re go­ing to see a tremen­dous growth in him.”


Head coach Kent Austin chats with of­fen­sive coach Stefan Ptaszek, right, at last year’s train­ing camp.

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