Fraser Caldwell | Ticats.ca
HAMILTON -- It seems almost counterintuitive.
To increase accountability and decrease worry. To boost execution and throw caution to the wind.
But these are precisely the things that the Ticats have looked to do this week, in preparation for tonight’s return to Ivor Wynne Stadium.
It began with a shock – the result of a week ago on a windy night in Winnipeg – and has continued through the reaction.
“It was a gut check for us in many ways, and it’s hard for me to even talk about it because I can’t believe that we showed up that way,” admits Ticat quarterback Henry Burris of the defeat. “That’s been the shared feeling and emotion around the locker room.”
“I like our chances when we feel this way, because we’re out to redeem ourselves.”
The road to that redemption sprouted up early Monday morning, when the veteran leaders of Hamilton’s offence called a players-only meeting for the unit.
Offensive tackle Brian Simmons explains that the theme of the discussion was accountability – the recognition on each player’s part that there is always something more to be done to avoid a loss.
“You hear from the coaches, but it’s been a while since we heard anything from individual players,” says Simmons.
“The meeting was meaningful because a lot of players stepped up and basically said that each one of us needs to hold ourselves accountable. It can’t be, “I’m doing my job but we’re losing.”
“There’s always something that we can do better to help.”
“It was good to hear that coming from players, because I’m sure some of us have thought it, but none of us have come out and said it.”
That same morning, Head Coach George Cortez did something that no fan or media member could have predicted: he told his beleaguered players to have fun.
He argues that the fear of mistakes – and of retribution – was holding his team back.
What they need most is the freedom to perform.
“I know that I’ve worked with and for a lot of people, and you tend to get more work done when you’re focused on the work and not worrying about whether you’re going to be hollered at all the time,” says the coach.
Burris sees the message from Cortez as an antidote to the negativity that he and his teammates could so easily wallow in.
There is no time to dwell, because despite the many roadblocks they’ve encountered, the Ticats remain within striking distance of a playoff position.
“We’ve got no other choice. We have to enjoy what we’re doing,” says the quarterback.
“Amidst all of the frustration that we’re dealing with, you could focus on that more. But right now, with the situation that we’re in, we need to take full advantage.”
“We’re still in this thing, and it’s time for us to change our frame of mind. Who cares about mistakes? We’ve made enough. Let’s go out there and play to have fun and do what it takes to win.”
Victory will not come easily against a Montreal team that is once again at the pinnacle of both the East Division standings and the CFL’s offensive charts.
But Burris suggests that – if the Ticats week of training is any indication – Hamilton will hold its own tonight.
“I like the way that our practices went this week,” says the quarterback. “There was a lot of energy, great execution and a lot of great competition going on.”
“That’s what we need to make ourselves better.”
Only the playing field will show whether the Ticats attempt to do away with worry is enough to push them past Anthony Calvillo and the Montreal Alouettes tonight.