Tough on the ticker

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

Rookie miscues on special teams are even worse for a CFL coach's ticker than rich, creamy pasta dishes.

B.C. Lions head coach Wally Buono, just eight months removed from life-threatening open heart surgery, is managing to stay away from one vice but must be wondering about further damage thanks to his chosen profession.

Buono was doing a slow burn along the Lions sidelines as he watched CFL neophyte Jerel Myers, with the Lions enjoying a 15-point lead, foolishly attempt to escape the endzone on a missed field goal only to fumble short of the goal-line.

Renegades offensive lineman Mike Sutherland flopped on the pigskin for a rare score as Ottawa threw a scare into Buono's Lions while raising the coach's blood pressure.

"They're not thinking," Buono told a Vancouver newspaper about his returner's mindless manoeuvre.

"Myers could easily have taken the ball and taken a knee. That's my fault. Part of the learning curve for all these guys is making good decisions on the run. I shouldn't have given Myers the option."

While Buono fumed, 'Gades staff sealed Sutherland's rare TD ball is a plastic bag for the trip home and eventual display in the o-lineman's den.

"This is my 24th year playing football and I have never scored a touchdown," Sutherland told an Ottawa newspaper.

The Renegades host Calgary Saturday when the Stampeders expect to keep Sutherland, a backup lineman who plays mostly special teams, and the rest of the Ottawa offence off the scoreboard.

WAVING BYE: The winless Hamilton Tiger-Cats had better hope they don't succumb to the dreaded bye-week blues when they return to action Sunday in Regina.

The 0-2 Tabbies are entering a tough stretch starting with the Roughriders then hosting the B.C. Lions next week before heading to Edmonton.

The imposing trio of games comes on the heels of a one-week break that allowed head coach Greg Marshall to re-evaluate his troops. There's also been plenty of speculation Hamilton would place a call to former Winnipeg-Calgary-Edmonton pivot Khari Jones to replace the aging Danny McManus, although the Cats are standing pat.

"We sure didn't want to start the season 0-2," Marshall told a Hamilton paper.

"Confidence is a big part of this game and you can lose it if you don't start winning games right away. We're not going to fall apart as a team. We've got some strong people and good players."

The TiCats posted a respectable 9-8-1 record last season, earning a playoff berth after a miserable 1-17 campaign in 2003.

McManus has suggested the defence and special teams has played well but offence is letting everyone down. Now the slow start this year has some CFL watchers wondering if it isn't time to hand the ball off to backup Marcus Brady, in his fourth CFL season.

NOT-SO NICE GUY: There isn't a more likable or approachable coach in the CFL than Winnipeg's Jim Daley, which sometimes works against the silver-haired Bombers boss.

Critics are quick to suggest when Daley's teams struggle -- as the 0-3 Bombers are right now -- the affable coach is too soft on his troops.

Not so.

While the former Stamps assistant is careful to say the right things publicly, players confirm behind the scenes the coach is a tough disciplinarian, not afraid to rip into his charges within the confines of the Bombers' room.

After demoting underachieving veteran o-lineman Dave Mudge -- a former CFL most outstanding offensive lineman -- to a backup role in a 21-15 loss to the Stampeders last week, the tackle was dealt to Montreal on the weekend.

"When I say there's improvement, there's no indication there that it's OK to lose," Daley told the Winnipeg Sun.

"Telling them to keep their heads up is not because we're happy that we lost, or that we're improving, so it's OK. There's no implication of that."

Daley has also been victimized by injuries this season to starting quarterback Kevin Glenn in Week 1, opening the door to backup Tee Martin.

A QB controversy is also on tap as soon as Glenn (high ankle sprain) is deemed healthy.

ON BOARD: The Stampeders have signed former Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Dennis Johnson, 25, a third-round selection in the 2002 NFL draft.

The 6-ft. 5-in., 269-lb., Kentucky product started nine games for the Cardinals in 2003. He is a recent cut of the San Francisco 49ers, with whom he signed in 2004.

The Stampeders are also enjoying a healthy turnaround this week.

All five players who either missed last week's game against the Bombers or were nicked in Winnipeg returned to the practice field yesterday.

LB George White (ham), DB Ben Kelly (ham), RB Ronny Jenkins (ham) OL Godfrey Ellis (ankle) and LB Scott Coe (shoulder) all practised.

OL Alexander Gauthier (separated shoulder) is still at least a week away.

NUMBER 57.4

The completion percentage of Stampeders starting QB Henry Burris through two games, connecting on 39 of 68 attempts and only one TD pass.

ON THE FIELD

FRIDAY

Winnipeg at Edmonton, 7 p.m. (TSN)

Toronto at B.C., 8 p.m.

SATURDAY

Calgary at Ottawa, 5 p.m. (CBC)

SUNDAY

Hamilton at Saskatchewan, 4 p.m. (TSN)

WHAT DID YOU SAY?

"We crapped on our leg in the first half. We looked liked schoolgirls."

-- B.C. offensive lineman Cory Mantyka after the Lions survived a close encounter with the Ottawa Renegades Friday.


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