If you want a snapshot into cornerback Jonathan Rose‘s importance to the Ottawa REDBLACKS’ defence, you could find one from a number of plays this past season. Or, you could return to a crucial juncture of the 2016 Grey Cup Game.
The play is mostly remembered for a shoestring tackle by another Ottawa defensive back, Abdul Kanneh, on Calgary back-up quarterback Andrew Buckley, as he was running wide to try and angle for the end zone in the dying seconds of the game.
Had Buckley scored, the Calgary Stampeders would have taken the lead with just seconds remaining, and they likely go on to win a game they would, instead, ultimately lose in overtime.
Kanneh’s play got the publicity, and while it was worthy of praise, so too was the play by Rose that made those heroics possible.
Buckley, the short yardage specialist who most always took snaps from close to the goal line and barged in for the major – in fact, he’d scored in just that fashion earlier in the fourth quarter of that game – was looking to pass, instead, on the play in question.
Only he couldn’t because Rose didn’t bite on what certainly looked like a quarterback sneak, covering receiver Anthony Parker tightly, forcing Buckley to eat it and attempt the run.
“We can depend on him to make the plays that he’s supposed to make and be where he’s supposed to be,” said Ottawa linebacker Kyries Hebert, taking the podium after a Wednesday practice, as the REDBLACKS and Stampeders prepare to battle once again, this time at the 106th Grey Cup presented by Shaw, Sunday in Edmonton.
Hebert was speaking of Rose, generally, but the play described above drives the point home; Rose is a standout defensive presence, one the REDBLACKS hope to have in their corner when kick-off comes.
“Fingers are crossed, we’re pulling for him and hope to be on the field with him come Sunday,” said Hebert.
Whether Rose, the third-year veteran, plays is still in question. But there he was on the field with his teammates for practice at the University of Alberta’s Foote Field, the domed facility that both the REDBLACKS and Stamps used for rehearsals on Wednesday.
After taking his reps, the 25-year-old native of Leeds, Alabama, was the centre of attention for plenty of reporters, and he showed a guarded and polite demeanor when it came to talking about his one game suspension he was assessed for pushing an official during last Sunday’s Eastern Final.
“Until we figure everything out I don’t wanna go into any further, like, detail about it,” Rose said, knowing that the appeal he’s launched is still in the process of being negotiated.
“Right now I feel like we’ve got a good understanding between me, the commissioner, the CFLPA, so, hopefully, these guys can get it worked out.”
He didn’t apologize, nor did he offer excuses. Only that he’d talked with his teammates about the incident, which happened near the end of the first half in a game the REDBLACKS were dominating.
“I just told ‘em I didn’t wanna be a distraction and I would never do anything to jeopardize this team’s success. I just wanted them to know that it wasn’t anything personal and anything I wanted to do intentionally.”
When one reporter offered him a sympathetic take on the incident, Rose declined to bite, giving a philosophical viewpoint on the matter.
“At the time there was a lot going on,” he said. “Depending on what view you wanna take, you’re gonna have your opinion on it.”
As a 2018 East All-Star, Rose finished in a five-way tie for the league lead in interceptions, with five. He made 45 tackles, forced four fumbles and scored one touchdown on a turnover. Big numbers in a season where he locked down a corner spot in mostly airtight fashion for the REDBLACKS, something that would sure come in handy against the Calgary offence on Sunday.
The REDBLACKS have options if Rose cannot play in the Grey Cup – and they survived without him in their 46-27 win over Hamilton in the Eastern Final – but they would prefer to have their All-Star in uniform come the weekend.
“I think he’s a pretty good cornerback,” said Hebert falling a little short of stating plainly just how important Rose is to the Ottawa defence. But he did offer, jokingly, kind words about Rose’s hair and teeth game, for what that’s worth.
Then, in more serious fashion: “He’s solid. He’s a trustworthy guy.”
“I once heard that he has an eight-foot wingspan. I think that’s a great attribute for a cornerback,” he said.
Rose’s 2018 numbers show his importance to the team. So did a crucial, quiet play at a critical moment when last these two teams met to contest for a championship.
Will he be on hand to do the same on Sunday? The REDBLACKS can only prepare as though he won’t, while hoping that he can.