Ticats' Hickman eyes NFL reward

In the CFL, there’s no better defensive end than Hickman. (REUTERS/Olivier Jean)

In the CFL, there’s no better defensive end than Hickman. (REUTERS/Olivier Jean)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:07 PM ET

Whether Justin Hickman finds the right opportunity in the NFL and finds himself on an opening-day roster, only time will tell.

But his time in the Hammer has officially come to an end, replaced by the unofficial season of speculating where Hickman ends up playing next season.

In the CFL, there’s no better defensive end than Hickman, especially when it comes to pressuring the quarterback and being a disruptive presence in the backfield.

There’s no bravado in the way Winnipeg’s Odell Willis comes across. No self-serving proclamations.

Hickman goes about his business and doesn’t seek the spotlight.

But he’ll be the focus this off-season, a free agent who simply must capitalize on his 13-sack season, which tied Willis for the league lead.

“If it’s the right shot,’’ Hickman said of pursuing the NFL. “I’m not going to take any shot.”

Ticat teammate and fellow defensive end Stevie Baggs says Hickman has the best hands in the business when it comes to rushing the passer.

Hickman is also quick, attributes Baggs feels will draw suitors down south.

“When you go from the 12-man game (CFL) and go back to the 11-man (NFL) game, being closer to the line of scrimmage helps. It’s an advantage,’’ Baggs said in referring to the one yard off the line of scrimmage that makes, among other things, CFL football different than the NFL.

There’s always a chance the Ticats may offer Hickman a deal he can’t refuse, but it’s in his best interest to audition for the NFL and see if the right opportunity comes along.

“He should take advantage,’’ Baggs said of Hickman looking south. “When you grow up in the States, the dream is to play at the highest level. He deserves a shot.”

Baggs took his shot after leading the CFL in sacks in 2009 with Saskatchewan.

“When I led the league in ’09, I wasn’t back,’’ said Baggs. “Traditionally, what happens when you have a great season up here, they (NFL) come calling after you.

“I expect him to get a shot at least.”

For his part, Hickman plans to return to his off-season home in Arizona, do some home repairs, chill and then begin working out.

“I’m at the point in my career where I’m getting better,’’ said Hickman, who recorded an interception in Sunday’s loss to Winnipeg in the East final.

“I’m not saying I’m at my peak yet, but I’m starting to get there.”

Garrett McIntyre parlayed two solid seasons in the Hammer into a job with the New York Jets this past off-season. Last Thursday, he started for the Jets in New York’s loss to Denver.

McIntyre had a great motor, but Hickman can flat-out get to the quarterback.

But it’ll all come down to opportunity.

When asked about a return to the CFL, Hickman spoke of loyalty and how he’ll allow the Ticats the first crack to bring him back.

“This is the place that gave me my first opportunity,’’ he added. “I believe in loyalty.”

Another Justin, kicker/punter Justin Medlock is also expected to look south.

Like Hickman, Medlock had too good of a year not to explore all options.

COMING SHAKE-UP INCLUDES QUARTERBACKS

Whatever the future holds, Kevin Glenn doesn’t see a future involving a rotating quarterback system.

While both Glenn and Quinton Porter took the high road during Hamilton’s rocky road, it’s not an ideal situation where quarterbacks can be pulled at any moment.

The theme was established in the season-opener way back on Canada Day when Glenn got pulled in the fourth quarter of a close game against Winnipeg, the first of four losses Hamilton would suffer at the hands of the Blue Bombers.

In Sunday’s East final, Glenn would leave the game early in the third quarter after jamming his foot into the turf, replaced by Porter, who managed to guide the offence to minus-6 yards in the wind-aided fourth quarter.

“It’s never ideal,’’ Glenn said of the two-man system. “As a quarterback, you want to be the guy who plays.”

As it turns out, Glenn suffered a high-ankle sprain from Sunday’s setback.

Porter also wants to start, but both may have to start over again in a new environment.

Porter knows changes await.

“I think there’s a lot of shaking up that needs to happen all around,’’ he said.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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