Shattered dreams

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:25 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- The dream is over for Mathieu Bertrand.

The Canadian fullback stood on the B.C. Place turf yesterday in a grey Edmonton Eskimo sweatsuit and declared he won't play tomorrow in the 93rd Grey Cup against the Montreal Alouettes because of a severe ankle sprain.

It was somewhat fitting he made the announcement on the field turf in this dome stadium because it was on that surface last week he suffered the ankle injury while trying to tackle Aaron Lockett in the West Final.

"I had a hard time going to sleep last night (Thursday)," said Bertrand, a consistent starter who had played throughout the year.

"I was pretty disappointed, thinking about the whole season and everything."

Understandably, it is a tough pill to swallow for the 27-year-old considering he was born in Quebec and drafted by the Alouettes before being released in 2003.

He has never played in a Grey Cup game - and would have had quite a following in his home province tomorrow after starring with Laval University.

But Bertrand knew what the deal was before Grey Cup week started: he had to be able to practise yesterday or he wasn't going to be able to play.

DITCHED THE CRUTCHES

The fact he just ditched the crutches Friday morning made practising yesterday a pipe dream.

"I can't even jog on it," explained Bertrand, a second-year Eskimo. "I can barely put my weight on (the right ankle).

"So, that's closure for me on Sunday. I am out."

Although he rarely carries the ball for more than a few yards and rarely gets any attention, Bertrand played a huge role throughout the year. "We are a big two-back team," said starting quarterback Ricky Ray.

"We play more two-back than most teams in this league. Having his blocking and him catching balls out the backfield is a big part of this offence."

In just two playoff games this month Bertrand has caught six balls for 44 yards.

STONE COLD

His role now falls into the lap of Mike Maurer - but it's not like he's stone cold coming into the biggest game of his career.

"Matty and I split time during the season, probably 60-40 for Matty," said Maurer, who was the starting fullback in Ottawa for three years.

"All this means is that I will have to carry the load more.

"I feel for Matty; he played 22 games to get to this point and it is awful that he can't be out there with us.

"So, I will be thinking of him and I will do the best I can to get this team another ring."

Bertrand's injury also leaves a gaping hole on the special teams unit.

"I don't even know if you can replace his abilities on special teams, but we are going to have to find a way to do that," said receiver Ed Hervey. "Matty is very special. He is one of those heart and soul guys that make a lot of noise as far as emotion is concerned."

Rookie Deitan Dubuc will likely fill Bertrand's spot on special teams.

FINISH LINES: Normally head coach Danny Maciocia would have officially scratched Bertrand yesterday, but the roster regulations change for the Grey Cup game. Typically a team must declare its injured players 48 hours in advance of a game, but for the championship tilt that doesn't happen until the day before kickoff. Regardless, Maciocia will bring another Canadian onto the roster. Backup receiver Rob Leblanc, OL Rhett McLane or OL Patrick Kabongo could be the lucky candidate on the roster.


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