Ticats' giant walks the line

Offensive tackle Peter Dyakowski (right) and defensive lineman Eddie Steele during a Ticats...

Offensive tackle Peter Dyakowski (right) and defensive lineman Eddie Steele during a Ticats practice. (ALEX UROSEVIC/QMI Agency file photo)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:04 PM ET

HAMILTON - He looks like Doctor Destructo, peering through the grillwork of his football helmet. He is 6-foot-5, 325 pounds, and Peter Dyakowski is swathed in bandages and so much protective hardware, he resembles one of those play-toy Transformers stalking prey.

He alone could keep tape-dispensing corporations in business for years. The Hamilton offensive lineman has it wound around both ankles by the yard, His right foot completely disapears in a blizzard of white. Both wrists are taped. Huge braces hug both knees so that when he runs there’s a sideways sway — sort of endearing in a kid-splashing-his-feet-through-a-puddle kind of way.

But, hey, for Dyakowski the look works. He has developed into one of the CFL’s most consistent linemen on a club that allowed a league-low 26 sacks last season.

“The knee braces are more of a precaution. I never played with them all through university and then in my rookie season I tore my MCL and I thought, ‘I don’t like them, but an ounce of prevention is worth the aggravation’. I’d rather be a bit annoyed every day and have the braces take a few shots rather than my knees.”

While injuries have forced the Ticats to play a game of musical chairs with their offensive line, Dyakowski has missed just six games in his career due to injury. “You look at the braces; you can see some cracks in them, so they’ve taken some big hits. Otherwise it could’ve been a knee. In my opinion, it’s worth it. Inside on the line, you get a lot of bodies flying around; linebackers coming full speed, running backs coming the other way. There’s a lot of bad things can happen.”

And Hamilton has had its share of bad things. Centre Marwan Hage and offensive tackle Brian Simmons didn’t practise Wednesday in the final workout before Friday’s game against Edmonton. Head coach Marcel Bellefeuille said one would play, but remained non-committal.

Mark Dewit and Belton Johnson move in. But losing Hage, especially, has to hurt, and it helps explain the dismal offensive showing in last week’s 43-13 bummer against Montreal.

The point production has to get better against the Esks, admits Dyakowski. And while the quarterback and ball handlers often get the headlines, it’s the offensive line that is the engine that drives an offence.

“Our goal is to score four touchdowns, or three touchdowns and three field goals at least. We didn’t meet it against Montreal but if you look six days before that we exceeded it pretty handily (a 44-21 win). We’ve done a good job of breaking down the Eskimos’ schemes. We believe we could do a few things,” said Dyakowski.

“Marwan is the glue in the middle but Mike DeWitt has done a great job stepping in. I don’t think we’ve had a big fall-off but every season guys play a little banged up. I don’t think you ever get to play a day healthy except for the first day of training camp.”

Dyakowski took a day off practice this week but was back Wednesday, musing that “you play with a bit of pain.” Which brings up another of Dyakowski’s idiosyncracies.

“Guys make fun of me all the time,” he said, laughing, then explaining what looks like some kind of sumo-wrestler imitation. Between plays he often lifts his leg, swings his knee out, then plants his foot back to the turf.

“I find it pops my hip and kind of loosens my leg up. I don’t even realize I’m doing it. Sometimes the guys get mad because I’m jerking my knee and guys are running into it. It’s got nothing to do with the braces. People say it looks funny but it’s just my leg gets tight, and this just pops it loose again.”

When he’s not popping legs he’s popping linebackers and D-men in an offensive line that has allowed only 15 sacks. Only Montreal’s Anthony Calvillo (14 sacks) has had a more secure picket fence thrown up around him than Kevin Glenn.

While defensive players have built entire reputations on creating sacks, preventing them is just as much a badge of honour for offensive linemen. “Last year (giving up the fewest in the league) was a feather in our cap,” said Dyakowski. “We had a great unit. We watch that. We like to see how we measure up against other lines in the league but we don’t get hung up on the numbers.”

And, then, he trudges toward the dressing room to unwind. And unwind, and unwind, and ...


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