Ticats call on Cobourne

The Tiger-Cats have brought running back Avon Cobourne into the fold. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters file...

The Tiger-Cats have brought running back Avon Cobourne into the fold. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters file photo)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:25 PM ET

HAMILTON - It was during a team gathering late Thursday when Ticats head coach George Cortez told his team the tale of Allen Pitts and Will Moore.

Back in the day when Cortez was calling the offensive shots in Calgary, Pitts was well on his way to yet another explosive season when his knee gave in running a routine route during practice. The slotback’s season done, an opportunity for someone to get reps.

That player would turn out to be Will Moore, who would go on to play in the NFL.

“It’s professional football,’’ Cortez said. “Guys are going to get hurt.”

It’s why any backup on any team playing any position is literally one play away, a fact of football life that demands mental toughness and patience.

In the case of the Ticats the Pitts-Moore analogy, while factual and anecdotal, it pales in comparison to what has unfolded in the Hammer. An about-face that can only happen in three-down football.

When Martell Mallett hurt himself on Thursday with what many had suspected to be an ankle injury, there were those who feared the worst.

Those fears were confirmed when it was revealed Mallett had torn his Achilles tendon, his season now officially done as he prepares for surgery in the coming days.

For those unfamiliar with the Mallett story, this multi-purpose back became an instant hit in B.C. in 2009, earning league rookie honours and parlaying his success into a shot at the NFL.

Mallett would bounce around until the Ticats came calling this off-season.

When a deal got struck, incumbent tailback Avon Cobourne asked for his release.

For much of this off-season, Cobourne was selling insurance until the call came from the Ticats once Mallett’s status was confirmed.

Football is such a bottom-line business that any optics, bad or otherwise, is of little concern because it serves no purpose.

The Ticats knew what they had in Cobourne, a guy who will always speak his mind, a veteran who will always leave everything out on the field.

Just as the Ticats were wrapping up Friday’s practice, Cobourne had touched down in the Hammer and ready to sign on the dotted line.

Once he gets acquainted with Cortez’s offence, Cobourne will feel back at home, no doubt relishing the chance to rush the football out of the backfield or be on the receiving end of a Henry Burris pass.

“He was the player I remember him being,’’ Cortez said of Mallett, who lasted all of four days.

Once he sees Cobourne and begins to see what gains are possible, Mallett will be quickly forgotten, another fact of football life that’s as cruel as anything.

Things change so quickly that anything is possible, assuming a bridge does not get burned to its core.

In his first and only season as a Ticat after years of service in Montreal, Cobourne rushed for 961 yards and caught 50 passes for another 459 yards, his most impactful game produced against the Als in the East semifinal when his toughness fuelled Hamilton’s wild overtime win.

TICATS HOMELESS ONCE AGAIN

Wherever the Ticats end up playing next season as iconic Ivor Wynne Stadium gets torn down and reborn, it won’t be at McMaster University.

Just when it appeared the CFL team and Mac were drawing closer to some resolution, Ticats owner Bob Young dropped the bombshell on Friday, announcing the school — which is housing the team’s training camp — will no longer be an option as a temporary home for the soon-to-be homeless Tabbies.

In the dream scenario, Ron Joyce Stadium, as intimate as any campus playpen, would have featured as many as 8,000 temporary seats to provide a two-sided venue for the Ticats.

The theory, at least on paper, was to play as many six games at Mac during the CFL’s summer schedule as school kids, for obvious reasons, weren’t on campus.

“What are we going to do now?’’ Young said rhetorically. “Anyone got a good stadium for us?

“We’re awfully disappointed, as you can expect.”

Whatever happens in the coming months, the Ticats will somehow find places, including Rogers Centre, to server as their home away from home as the new Wynne gets built.

What concerns Young the most is the inconvenience to Hamilton’s rabid fans, now knowing that Mac is no longer in the picture.

Whether it’s Western, a school Young admits has an interest in housing the Ticats, or Guelph, which is putting together a new stadium, there will be many fans in the Hammer who will balk at making the commute.

There’s always the possibility of returning to the Maritimes, costs notwithstanding, a place where both the Argos and Ticats played to great reviews.

“Suddenly, it looks a lot more attractive,” Young said.

By far, the most attractive option involved Mac.

Whatever happened behind closed doors, it’s obvious politics overruled the pigskin.

Anyone involved in athletics would have relished the idea of a two-sided set up at Mac, especially with the program having won last year’s Vanier Cup.

But when many stakeholders are involved, dissenting voices get aired and those with the biggest clout carry the day.

In a perfect world, Young felt the Ticats could have announced plans for next season as early as the start of this season.

“It certainly complicates our plans a great deal,’’ Young said. “It might or it may not delay that schedule.”


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