New-look Ticats on prowl

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:37 AM ET

If a new coach and new general manager to start the 2007 season didn't send a enough of a message to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the final week of training camp did.

When Ticats lifers -- borderline sports legends in the city -- Mike Morreale and Rob Hitchcock were released, the shock value blasted it home.

With general manager Marcel Desjardins and coach Charlie Taaffe ruling the lair, these are the new 'Cats in town, a franchise determined to again become a factor in the CFL East.

"There were a lot of tough decisions to make, but we're running things for the betterment of the players and the fans and the organization, not just for one or two players," team president Scott Mitchell said yesterday.

"We're not looking at the short term. We have to make the right decisions, not necessarily the popular decisions."

While Jason Maas, the starting quarterback from a year ago, will get the ball to start the season, the team has options should he struggle as he did in 2006.

Rocky Butler and Timmy Chang have both impressed during the pre-season and seem to be solid pupils in Taaffe's steep learning curve.

Desjardins, who learned from Jim Popp and Don Matthews with the Montreal Alouettes, is considered to possess a keen eye for talent and hasn't been shy about leaving his imprint.

Taaffe, a two-time CFL coach of the year, runs a tight ship and a creative offence that has caught the attention of Jesse Lumsden, who could have a massive breakout season after his first full CFL training camp.

"It's all over the place," Lumsden said of Taaffe's offence. "You have to learn it, you have to know it. But once you do, you get to the point where you say, 'yeah, I get it.'

"It has the potential to do a lot of big things."

Mitchell feels that after two long seasons of struggle and organizational mayhem, the Ticats are on the right path. It may take some time, but those at the top feel confident that the future is solid.

"After coming off a couple of years where there was a little bit of an anarchy around here, it's nice to see some stability (in the foottball operations)," said Mitchell, whose team opens on the road against Calgary this Saturday.

"With coaches, quarterbacks and Canadians, we're in good shape and that's what wins in this league."


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