‘Loy­alty’ big issue with Cats

Will Hill lat­est to go, Reinebold lets loose and Austin says team sport a two-way street

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - DREW EDWARDS

As soap op­eras go, the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats may be the best thing go­ing.

Thurs­day’s episode fea­tured the de­par­ture of their sec­ond-lead­ing tack­ler and bud­ding bad boy, Will Hill, who had started ev­ery game on de­fence this sea­son — ex­cept for the one where he was sus­pended for gab­bing an of­fi­cial — as well com­ments from re­cently de­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor Jeff Reinebold al­leg­ing “dis­loy­alty” from mem­bers of the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Ti­cat head coach Kent Austin, the show’s be­lea­guered lead­ing man, didn’t want to get into specifics sur­round­ing the cir­cum­stances of Hill’s de­par­ture, but al­luded to is­sues about his at­ti­tude and com­mit­ment.

“We want guys that un­der­stand what it means to be a team­mate and to play in a team sport,” Austin said.

Hill signed in Canada af­ter be­ing sus­pended by the NFL four times for vi­o­lat­ing both the per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing and sub­stance abuse guide­lines. Sources close to the team said Hill was rou­tinely late or missed meet­ings, while oth­ers re­ferred to him as a “cancer.” His de­ci­sion to walk off the prac­tice field on Wed­nes­day was likely the last straw.

“We want guys on our team that un­der­stand that they need to have a role that’s given to them. … To show up at prac­tice and to prac­tise, to do every­thing that the coaches ask them to do,” Austin said. “When there is a pat­tern of be­hav­iour that be­trays that, then they’ve demon­strated that they can’t be a team guy.”

Mean­while, Reinebold made his first pub­lic com­ments in the wake of his de­par­ture from the team ear­lier this week, on In­side the Hud­dle, the NFL-themed pod­cast he co-hosts for SkyS­ports. Austin re­placed Reinebold with lineback­ers’ coach Phillip Lol­ley af­ter the team gave up an av­er­age of 39 points a game while start­ing 0-6.

“When you go through these things you find out a tremen­dous amount about loy­alty. You won­der why guys don’t take jobs un­less they have only their guys in place with them? For rea­sons like this. When it gets tough, and it al­ways gets tough, if the guys are bound to­gether you can weather it bet­ter than when guys are start­ing to feel like ‘Oh my God, the ship’s sink­ing and I bet­ter see how I can get on one of the lifeboats,’” Reinebold said.

“Dis­loy­alty comes in a lot of fashions. It can be not do­ing some­thing the way it needs to get done, con­tin­u­ously. That’s the same thing as say­ing ‘I’m not go­ing to do it your way.’ There’s also the more bla­tant form of dis­loy­alty which is guys cut­ting side room deals.”

Reinebold said he was sur­prised by the de­ci­sion, which came af­ter a tough twogame West Di­vi­sion road trip in which they were beaten 60-1 by the Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers — the sec­ond-worst loss in team his­tory — then fell 33-28 in Ed­mon­ton last Friday, a fu­ri­ous four-quar­ter rally fall­ing just short.

“Ev­ery sit­u­a­tion is unique, but the thing that took me by sur­prise was that there were no con­ver­sa­tions pre­vi­ous. There was no the head coach calls you in and asks ‘what are you do­ing on third down?’

“Or ‘I don’t like what you’re do­ing here, you’re blitz­ing too much, you’re not blitz­ing enough.’ There was none of that,” Reinebold said.

“It was just a blind­sided — I got a text at 5:30 in the morn­ing to meet the head coach at 9, I walked in and he told me what he was do­ing and that was the end of it.”

Austin, who said he hadn’t lis­tened Reinebold’s com­ments, dis­missed his charge that any of the coaches on the Ti­cats’ staff had un­der­cut the former de­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor in any way.

“Jeff has been a val­ued mem­ber of our club. There have been ex­treme amounts of loy­alty given: if there’s any­body who’s loyal to his coaches, it’s the guy you’re look­ing at right now,” Austin said.

“We don’t have other coaches that un­der­mine other coaches on the staff. I’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced or wit­nessed that with these guys. If I had, they wouldn’t be here.”

While Austin said the door re­mained open for a pos­si­ble re­turn — Reinebold has been of­fered a job work­ing with new as­sis­tant head coach June Jones, with whom he has worked in the past — it doesn’t sound as if he’s in­clined to take it.

Reinebold said he spoke to friends and col­leagues around foot­ball, in­clud­ing former NFL co-or­di­na­tor Rob Ryan and cur­rent Toronto head coach Marc Trest­man, about his sit­u­a­tion.

“Both of them ad­vised me not to do it. They said it will be too raw. As much as you love the play­ers and your loy­alty to June ... they said go surf­ing, go do your job at Sky and take some time to re­assess where you are and what you want to do,” Reinebold said. “That’s been the mes­sage from ev­ery­body. Even June said ‘I want you to stay, but I couldn’t do it.’ I think that’s the way it’s go­ing to sort out.”

Of course, with a saga like this, it seems like any­thing is pos­si­ble. Stay tuned.

Six-year-old Bran­don Banks Jr. — an­kles taped like the pros — runs a side­line drill as dad Bran­don Sr. prac­tises with the Ti­cats on Thurs­day.

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