Thorpe lays down the law

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:18 AM ET

Noel Thorpe is laying down the law with the Edmonton Eskimos' special teams units.

In his first year as the Green and Gold's special teams coach, Thorpe has brought a justice system with him - fining players for crimes on the field.

"We categorize things in two ways," said Thorpe. "The first one is a crime - committing a crime against teammates.

"The next one is a misdemeanour. It is not punishable like a crime, but it is a three-strike rule. Three misdemeanours can equal a crime.

"A crime is punishable by a fine.

"It is a friendly thing - an accountability deal.

"But what it does, it creates a peer-pressure environment.

"A guy that had a crime would be buying chicken for the team."

Thorpe is the judge and jury in the fining system.

A crime is something that can really hurt a team.

"A penalty - an illegal block," said Thorpe, who came to Edmonton from the Montreal Alouettes in the off-season, while describing what constitutes a crime.

"A substitution error will be a crime."

A misdemeanour can be handed out if a player's effort isn't up to par or his decision making is questioned.

So far, only one player - Calvin Armstrong - has committed a crime on special teams through two regular-season games.

Armstrong was late reporting on the field for a field-goal attempt last Thursday against the Calgary Stampeders.

He has been hit with an undisclosed fine that will go toward buying food for his teammates.

"I didn't realize where we were on the field," said the starting left guard on the offensive line.

"I thought we were going to punt the ball. So, I came off the field and I was sipping on some Gatorade and relaxing - and then I realized we were kicking a field goal and I knew I was supposed to be out there.

"It was a simple, mental mistake.

"I can guarantee I won't miss another one of those."

Edmonton's special teams units have yet to give up a major return that has resulted in a touchdown or field possession close to the goal-line so far this year.

Large credit goes to the fact Thorpe's schemes are better than those used by former coach Scott Squires last year.

But special teams starter J.R. LaRose also gives credit to the justice system for improving the play on the field.

"It works. We are not taking stupid penalties," quipped LaRose.

Edmonton gave up six touchdowns against on special teams last year.

There were also issues with illegal blocks.

That hasn't been the case this year.

And in the preseason, Edmonton took two returns for touchdowns with rookie Tristan Jackson.

FINISH LINES: THORPE USED A SIMILAR JUSTICE SYSTEM EARLIER IN HIS COACHING CAREER BUT AMENDED IT WHEN HE ARRIVED IN EDMONTON.


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