June 23, 2007

Bubble bursts for defensive-back Kent

Okeke’s future in question as GM Popp mulls potential scenarios trying to trim roster

By Herb Zurkowsky,
Montreal Gazette

So much seemed possible for defensive-back Clint Kent three weeks ago, when the Alouettes started training camp. Ricky Bell was long gone, having been released over the winter, and Chip Cox still was in the NFL, with Washington, creating the possibility of two openings in the secondary.

“The way it looked,” Kent said yesterday, “it seemed like it was my job to lose.”

And somehow, that’s precisely what he did.

Kent wasn’t officially released by the Alouettes yesterday, but unless something drastic occurs, he’ll be on the Canadian Football League’s unemployment line by 11:59 p.m. tonight, when all teams must declare their 46-man rosters. Despite the protestations yesterday by Jim Popp, claiming Kent hadn’t been cut, the defensive back told the assembled media of his departure and was seen saying goodbye to some teammates.

Popp, the Alouettes general manager and head coach, was playing coy, hoping to somehow trade Kent. Otherwise, Popp risks losing him for nothing.

Indeed, Popp spent a good portion of his afternoon meeting players and mulling potential scenarios as he tried to figure out his 46-man roster along with the seven-man practice squad. The latter must be declared by 4 p.m. tomorrow.

One such meeting involved veteran offensive-lineman Uzooma Okeke, who may well have played his final game as an Alouette Thursday, against Toronto.

Popp yesterday presented different options to Okeke, 37, but neither wanted to discuss with The Gazette what had transpired.

Okeke said he wants to spend the weekend talking to his family before reaching a decision.

Nonetheless, the revelation can’t possibly augur well. It’s no secret the Als would like to go with an all-Canadian offensive line. Some potential options facing Okeke could be accepting a pay cut, trading him or having him retire. He could also go on the practice roster, but that would be a blow to his ego and reputation and appears less likely.

Ten players officially were released yesterday, including second-year rush-end D.D. Acholonu, who played 12 games as a rookie, including five starts. He had two quarterback sacks, 26 tackles and knocked down a pass.

Also released were defensive-tackles Charles Suppon and Adrian Davis; linebackers Jarred Corbin and Mondoe Davis; defensive-back Keith Williams; cornerback Jeremy Chandler, and centre Sean Brown. Veterans Keith Stokes and Donnavan Carter, told earlier in the week they no longer fit in the team’s plans, cleared waivers without being traded and were released.

Other players, along with Kent, who appear to have been released pending confirmation from the organization, include: running-back Tyson Browning and defensive-back Thomas Whitfield.

Coming out of training camp last season, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Kent was one of the Alouettes’ starters.

He was replaced by Cox for one game. Cox played a starring role, forcing Kent to be in and out of the lineup.

He dressed for nine games, including seven starts, missed five games with injuries and was a healthy scratch for four games.

But he proved competent enough, recording 36 tackles and one quarterback sack.

At camp this season, Kent was hampered by a hamstring injury and never fully recovered. Still, he said, he was “shocked” by the news.

With so many players still at camp, plus so many being injured, Popp was considering various possibilities, knowing the cloud of the $4.05-million salary cap hangs over his head. The salary of any player on the nine-game injured list doesn’t count against the cap, but if a player’s hurt for a game or two, his salary counts.

“The Canadian injuries are my biggest concern,” Popp said.

“I’m trying to figure out what to do. The last thing I want to do is eat the cap with injured costs.”

Notes – Cornerback Davis Sanchez suffered a sprained wrist – not a fracture – against Toronto. He might be able to play in the home and season opener, Friday against Saskatchewan, wearing a cast. … Running-back Bruce Perry is getting married next weekend, making it likely the Alouettes will suspend him, thereby retaining his rights. … Fellow RB Jarrett Payton, sidelined more than a week with a sprained ankle, will probably begin the season on the injured list. … Safety etienne Boulay, sidelined with a pulled calf muscle, said he has been cleared to play.