El­lis back to help shore up por­ous sec­ondary

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - ded­wards@thes­pec.com 905-526-2481 | @scratch­ing­post

Do­minique El­lis isn’t one to say, ‘I told you so.’

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats repa­tri­ated the Amer­i­can de­fen­sive back on Tues­day, just over a month af­ter re­leas­ing him as part of their fi­nal ros­ter cuts in June. While ac­knowl­edg­ing that he did not par­tic­u­larly agree with the de­ci­sion at the time, El­lis was more or less silent on so­cial me­dia and kept from set­ting fire to the bridge he used to get back on board.

“I just want to play foot­ball. I’m not emo­tional about it. Of course, I would have rather been here since the be­gin­ning of the sea­son but that’s not what was de­cided,” said El­lis, who played in all 18 games for Hamilton last sea­son, start­ing 13. “I don’t hold any an­i­mos­ity to­wards them and they clearly don’t hold any to­wards me.”

In­juries and in­ex­pe­ri­ence have been an is­sue in the sec­ondary. The Ti­cats have al­lowed a league­worst 35.3 points per game, giv­ing up 418 yards of pass­ing a game (also last) and al­low­ing op­pos­ing quar­ter­backs to com­pete 75 per cent of their passes (again, last.)

In ad­di­tion to sur­ren­der­ing per­sonal-best pass­ing days to Toronto’s Ricky Ray and B.C.’s Travis Lu­lay, the sec­ondary al­lowed Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos quar­ter­back Mike Reilly to march 75 yards in 70 sec­onds for the game-win­ning score in last Thurs­day’s 31-28 loss.

Watch­ing from his home in At­lanta, El­lis’s arm­chair anal­y­sis was fa­mil­iar. “I’ve seen the same things ev­ery­body else has seen. At the end of the day, you just have to play bet­ter. You’re ac­count­able for the guy in front of you, so get it done. That’s how all the guys in that room feel: as a player, if any­thing ever hap­pens, you feel the worst — trust me, I know. It’s all about how you re­spond.”

At 27 and hav­ing played 45 games in his three-year CFL ca­reer, El­lis is a phys­i­cal, ver­sa­tile de­fender who can play mul­ti­ple po­si­tions in the sec­ondary, some­thing that head coach Kent Austin cited as a fac­tor. “Ex­pe­ri­ence — we’re a lit­tle thin in that de­part­ment and we need some ver­sa­til­ity. We have to an­tic­i­pate other in­juries so we have to be smart in lay­er­ing our depth, es­pe­cially with guys that know what we’re do­ing. He fit that model.”

While key free-agent pickup Ab­dul Kan­neh is get­ting closer to a re­turn — he prac­tised fully on Tues­day — fel­low all-star half­back Emanuel Davis and Cana­dian safety Craig But­ler are “at least” weeks away, ac­cord­ing to Austin. Promis­ing cor­ner Keon Lyn suf­fered a bro­ken leg against Ed­mon­ton and was added to the six-game in­jured list.

El­lis also pro­vides a vet­eran voice to the room, one that doesn’t lack for con­fi­dence. For a team that’s 0-4 and a unit that’s taken some heat, that could be in­valu­able. “Con­fi­dence is ev­ery­thing with a de­fen­sive back and all those guys be­lieve in them­selves, it’s just a few small things. With de­fen­sive backs, the small things are the big things,” El­lis said. “It will never be neg­a­tive. If I can speak to you in a con­struc­tive way, it will help your con­fi­dence. That old school method of cussing guys out never worked with play­ers. It never worked with me.”

What­ever El­lis said — or didn’t say — it worked well enough to earn him an­other chance. NOTES: Austin said he re­mains “100 per cent” com­mit­ted to start­ing quar­ter­back Zach Col­laros, de­spite the team’s 0-4 record. Col­laros is eighth in the Cana­dian Foot­ball League in pass­ing yards and last in quar­ter­back rat­ing among the starters. “We are con­stantly go­ing to eval­u­ate ev­ery sin­gle po­si­tion on this foot­ball team and where we need to get bet­ter, we’re go­ing to push to get bet­ter,” Austin said. “But be real care­ful in a team game fo­cus­ing on a sin­gle player.”… The team also signed in­ter­na­tional of­fen­sive line­man Ryker Mathews and na­tional line­backer Cur­tis New­ton while re­leas­ing Amer­i­can de­fen­sive back Tris­tan Dough­lin and Cana­dian of­fen­sive line­man Mathieu Dupuis.

JOHN RENNISON, THE HAMILTON SPEC­TA­TOR

Do­minique El­lis is back with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. DREW ED­WARDS

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