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Gary Lawless

TSN Senior Correspondent

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TSN Senior CFL correspondent Gary Lawless takes a weekly look at the biggest news in the three-down game.

Carter’s case

One interesting wrinkle put forth in the Duron Carter affair was the question of his mental state when he buzzed the RedBlacks bench and bowled over Ottawa head coach Rick Campbell.

If Carter appeals the one-game suspension handed down by the CFL, reduced capacity or lack of impulse control could very well be at the heart of his argument.

The Alouettes receiver took an illegal hit to the head in the end zone on the previous play. Carter held on to the ball and scored a touchdown but he got rocked. Then he got up and headed to the RedBlacks bench. 

Calling around the league and speaking to general managers, current and former players, league officials and Canadian Football League Players' Association folks, the question over whether or not he was concussed, or at the very least dazed, was raised by a number of people. 

Carter may argue he had reduced capacity as a result of the hit put on him by RedBlacks safety Jermaine Robinson. The CFL fined Robinson for “a high hit to Carter’s head area on Carter’s touchdown reception,” so there’s no argument about the receiver taking a head shot.

The NHLPA argued as much on behalf of Calgary Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman last winter after he knocked linesman Don Henderson to the ice following a check to the head. Word is Carter was put through concussion protocol and cleared, but that may not stop him from appealing and arguing he wasn’t in control of his actions as a result of the blow to the head.

This is a slippery slope for the CFL and the very reason the NHL considered Wideman’s grounds for appeal so dangerous. Establishing a precedent that alleviates a player of his responsibilities as a result of contact that may or may not have caused diminished capacity makes enforcing any kind of conduct policy difficult.

It’s not just player-on-referee or player-on-coach incidents that could be an issue, but also player-on-player. This could be a groundbreaking judgement if Carter were to win an appeal of his suspension based on an argument of reduced capacity.

Move the benches? Not so fast

In the aftermath of Carter knocking over Campbell last week, many have suggested the benches in the East be moved onto different sides of the field like they are configured in the West.

It’s a great solution and the preferred field alignment for sure. Molson Stadium in Montreal, however, cannot be configured in this manner because of the stadium’s structure and placement of stands on the side of the field opposite to the benches. The other three stadiums in the East use the opposite sidelines for LED advertising boards, which bring each club revenue north of $500,000, so that’s not going to change either.

Problems in The Peg

Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea and quarterback Drew Willy are in the line of fire in Winnipeg. Half the town wants O’Shea fired and the other half wants Willy benched after the Bombers’ 0-2 start.

Talking with Bombers brass this week, they indicated the talk of firing O’Shea was not only premature but not even on their radar. The club made a lot of changes on offence in the off-season and Willy is only two games back after going through a major injury and the ensuing surgery. 

Bauming: Bombers are nowhere near where they need to be

TSN 1290 Winnipeg's Darrin Bauming joins TSN 1150's Ticats at Noon with Jim Tatti to discuss the Week 3 match-up between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

O’Shea believes his No. 1 passer needs more time in the offence to get used to the new playbook of offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice and the weapons general manager Kyle Walters signed in free agency. 

Bottom line: Don’t expect any changes in the near future regardless of result. The organization believes the coach, quarterback and team are a work in progress which need patience and not early season overreaction.

Harris or Ray?

The Toronto Argonauts chose Ricky Ray over Trevor Harris this past off-season. Did they make the right choice?  To date, Harris has the edge. He’s 2-0 and has been near perfect in Ottawa, leading the CFL in almost every passing category. Ray is a veteran with Grey Cups on his resume.

So it’s far too early to pass judgement, but it’s an interesting storyline to monitor all the same.

Wally the GM has been good to Wally the coach

The B.C. Lions, who many picked to be in the last in the West, have moved out to a tidy 2-0 record and a lot of the credit is going to returning head coach Wally Buono. Buono is the winningest coach in CFL history, so it should be no surprise there’s been an upgrade in that department. Coaches want good players and they want depth. Buono the coach has pushed Buono the general manager to provide both.

Jeremiah Johnson (ankle), Mic’hael Brooks (ankle) and Charles Vaillancourt (concussion protocol) are all doubtful for this week. In the last couple of years the Lions would be pulling guys off the street to fill in. This year, they have Anthony Allen, Bryant Turner Jr. and Kirby Fabien, all established veterans, to step in this week. That’s the general manger giving the coach a big edge. 

Buono: Lions players deserve the 2-0 start

Wally Buono says his players have worked hard and played very well and deserve a 2-0 start. Wally says the defence is getting the main attention, but he feels both wins have been due to strong efforts in all three facets: offence, defence, special teams.

Reading the league

Here in the CFL we’ve got a lot of great writers chronicling the game and its players. Drew Edwards is doing cool stuff with 3DownNation, Kirk Penton is a must-read and the two grouchy old men of the CFL, Herb Zurkowsky at the Montreal Gazette and Dan Ralph of the Canadian Press, aren’t just experienced, they’re good. Scott Mitchell in Calgary breaks and tells stories. Same with Chris O’Leary in Toronto, Tim Baines in Ottawa and Gerry Moddejonge in Edmonton. Winnipeg has a pair of duelling columnists in Paul Friesen and Paul Wiecek and there are Hall of Famers such as Terry Jones, Steve Milton, Rob Vanstone, Wayne Scanlan, Frank Zicarelli, Ed Willes, Cam Cole, Murray McCormick and Mike Beamish scattered across the league. They’re all worth reading. 

The Rouge does its fair share of reading: newspapers, magazines, websites and blogs. It’s all part of the fabric that makes up a football life. This week’s favourite read comes from former NFL QB Jake Plummer. Check it out.

The pick

The Riders are 11.5 dogs at the Eskimos. This shapes up to be the game of the week in terms of drama. The Riders’ defence is coming into form. Take the Riders and the points.

DT’s Details

Each week The Rouge gets a statistical take from TSN anchor and renowned numbers geek Derek Taylor.

92 per cent

That’s Ticats quarterback Jeremiah Masoli's completion percentage under pressure this season (11-for-12). He's the only quarterback who is better under pressure than not under pressure so far. No quarterback finished the 2015 season that way.

9

That’s the number of receptions Naaman Roosevelt of the Roughriders has this season. Seven of them are considered Successful Receptions — catches that get good yards on first down or convert on second or third down).

158

Yards after contact the Bombers have given up to opposing rushers. It's 52 more than the Alouettes have given up on one fewer carry.

2

RedBlacks quarterback Trevor Harris already has two completions of more than 60 yards this year. His longest last season with the Argos was 57 yards.