GAMEDAY SATUR­DAY

THE TIGER-CATS re­turn to Tim Hor­tons Field hop­ing to fi­nally earn an elu­sive first win

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - DREW ED­WARDS

There’s no such thing as a sim­ple fix when a team is 0-6.

But let’s try it any­way: the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats are a team that needs a lit­tle more in­ten­sity on the field — and a lit­tle less in­ten­sity off it.

This is, of course, a gross over­sim­pli­fi­ca­tion.

Ti­cats head coach Kent Austin was asked to iden­tify “one or two” keys to vic­tory against the Win­nipeg Blue Bombers on Satur­day night at Tim Hor­tons Field.

He gave an an­swer that went on for nearly two min­utes and touched on, con­ser­va­tively, eight dif­fer­ent themes — and didn’t in­clude old chest­nuts like win­ning the turnover bat­tle and get­ting pres­sure on the quar­ter­back (which they also need to do.)

This has been a week of seis­mic change for the Tiger-Cats, some of them de­signed to deal with the sim­ple things and oth­ers aimed at the deeper, more com­plex is­sues af­fect­ing the team’s out­comes.

New as­sis­tant head coach June Jones has taken a lead role in game-plan­ning, spend­ing plenty of time with the quar­ter­backs and re­ceivers.

Austin said the play-call­ing du­ties will re­main with offensive co­or­di­na­tor Ste­fan Ptaszek, who has han­dled them for much of the sea­son, but will be done with “a lot of in­put” from Jones.

While Jones brings plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence to the ta­ble — he has more than 25 years in coach­ing and is con­sid­ered one of the god­fa­ther’s of mod­ern offensive foot­ball — it may be his re­lent­lessly pos­i­tive ap­proach that is most ben­e­fi­cial to a team still hang­ing out with “Owen.”

Austin’s in­ten­sity is on full dis­play on most game days and Ptaszek is also wired pretty tight.

Even for­mer de­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor Jeff Reinebold, for all his Aloha-ness, coached with a cer­tain fo­cused en­ergy, both on the side­lines and be­hind the scenes.

The loss of for­mer co-or­di­na­tors Tommy Con­dell and Or­londo Stein­auer — both re­lent­lessly pos­i­tive guys — robbed the Ti­cats of a cer­tain equi­lib­rium that the ar­rival of Jones and pro­mo­tion of new DC Phillip Lol­ley may have re­stored.

“The first thing that strikes you about June is that he’s re­laxed. He’s not a stressed out guy, he’s just go­ing to talk offence and it seems like he re­ally en­joys do­ing that,” said re­ceiver Luke Tasker.

“When you’re los­ing, you try hard not to grind and force things and get all stressed out. But it’s in­evitable, so his level of calm­ness about the game is help­ful.”

If the new coaches have brought a slightly more laid-back vibe, some of the play­ers the Ti­cats have added to the ros­ter this week are bound to bring a cer­tain amount of swag­ger. Cana­dian safety Craig But­ler will play in his first game in more than a year and half, af­ter re­cov­er­ing from a knee in­jury; while vet­eran de­fen­sive back Emanuel Davis will get his first start of the sea­son af­ter re­cov­er­ing from ham­string is­sues.

Davis is mild-man­nered in his deal­ings with the me­dia, but talks his share of smack on the field and hopes to bring a be­lea­guered sec­ondary a jolt of en­ergy.

“A lit­tle bit of an at­ti­tude. Vet­eran sta­tus, a guy that’s been out there, that knows the game, set­tling down the young guys in the cru­cial mo­ments,” Davis said. “A level head and a lit­tle bit of ex­pe­ri­ence ... and a cou­ple of picks.”

But­ler’s road back has been a dif­fi­cult one, and the for­mer all-star safety will ease him­self back into the line up pri­mar­ily as a spe­cial­teams player on Satur­day. There’s a warm-and-fuzzy sto­ry­line in­volv­ing over­com­ing ad­ver­sity, per­sonal tragedy and per­se­ver­ance. But But­ler — who has is no doubt aware of the so­cial me­dia “ex­perts” who won­dered if his ca­reer was over — isn’t in­ter­ested in any of that.

“It’s my job, my ca­reer, my pas­sion. It’s what I love to do. If I didn’t love to do it, I wouldn’t have worked so hard to get to where I am. I’m ready to be that guy again. I’m sure you guys had those wor­ries, but I never doubted my­self. Ever. I’m here to win a foot­ball game. It’s not about me, it’s about beat­ing Win­nipeg and be­ing 1-6. That’s it.”

Sounds sim­ple enough.

SCOTT GARD­NER, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats’ new as­sis­tant head coach June Jones may be the calm­ing in­flu­ence Zach Col­laros and the team need to over­come the tu­mult of late.

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