It was an interesting week one in the CFL on a lot of levels. We saw a Western sweep, the first illegal hit for review by the league office, and CFL history.
After a long offseason of speculation that the Eastern Division was about to take a major step in closing the gap on their Western counterparts, we were all reminded that games aren't won on paper. Just because a team has a veteran quarterback with lots of experience doesn't mean that a win is guaranteed. Now it is only one game, but let's take a look at Week 1 for a second.
Heading into the Rider game against Hamilton, the questions and concerns were directed at Saskatchewan. Would they have a pass rush? Will Darian Durant get his mojo back? Will the Rider offensive line be better? Hamilton on the other hand were hearing, and reading about all the weapons they had on offense, and that they had an all-star linebacking corp.
Some may have predicted a Rider win, but I think it is safe to say that no one thought it would be that lopsided. Saskatchewan won by twenty seven points and put over five hundred yards of offense on the board.
The Lions were favored to win and did, more on that later, and the Argo game in Edmonton went about according to how most predicted as well, although many thought Toronto was improved enough to be on the other side of that close score.
Ricky Ray's return was a great story, he performed well but showed signs that it will take some time for him to learn the new offense, and Steven Jyles underwhelmed but did win. In fact, while it may not have been pretty, a wins a win. Jyles should at least get credit for hearing for a month from most of the fans that Edmonton got the worst of the big trade, and then standing tall in there, and managing the game well enough to get the victory.
Then there was the Montreal game in Calgary, and again most were surprised by, not that the Stamps won, they have had a competitive team over the last few years, but by how Calgary dominated. All eyes were on Drew Tate who was facing an opposing quarterback that had two hundred and fifty more starts that he did, and yet led Calgary to a win that never really seemed in doubt. A couple of surprises in Week 1 proved once again that the game is certainly not won on paper in the off-season.
The game in Calgary also had the first illegal late hit on a quarterback that immediately went to the league office for review. When Calgary quarterback Drew Tate fell on a loose ball and surrendered, he was slammed hard by linebacker Shea Emry. Als' head coach Marc Trestman said after the game, and I'm paraphrasing, it was an inappropriate hit and should not be part of the game. It is fair to say that most would agree with that assessment, and the league should rule soon on what supplemental discipline will be applied.
However, it was impressive to see how Trestman handled the situation both in-game and post game. First, during the game Emry was not ejected and could have continued to play, but was pulled off the field by the Al's coaching staff for the rest of the series, something they didn't have to do, but sent the right message.
Secondly, it was refreshing to see Trestman openly and honestly, make the statement he did to the media after the game. The stock answer that is often given by coaches in that situation is, I don't want to discuss that until I talk to the player and look at the film. Trestman saw the play like the rest of us and didn't have to wait to see the film to give his honest opinion.
And finally but most importantly we saw a little history in Week 1 when the Lions Geroy Simon passed Milt Stegall and became the all-time leading receiver in CFL history. Much has been said about why Simon is as good, and as consistent as he has been though out the years, but rather than go over all his strengths as a receiver and person again, there was something else interesting about the night he broke the record.
Simon was inundated by family, media and fan requests on game day. He was juggling upwards of twenty five family members that were there to support him, and was making sure that they had everything they needed, including sideline passes for his son and father.
Right up to about an hour before kickoff he was posing for pictures with fans, most of which were little kids that understood the significance of the night and wanted a picture with their hero. And if that wasn't overwhelming enough, was asked, and complied with virtually every media request he got, including television interviews before the game, at half time, and even during the game.
Simon proved that it is possible to be a great ambassador of the game and take care of all media responsibilities, and the fans, and still stay focused on the job at hand and the game. Simon after changing his game day routine more drastically that it had ever been changed before, or will again, had 105 receiving yards, helped his team win, and made CFL history.
Bring on Week 2.