Wiltshire pledges loyalty to coach

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:56 AM ET

LB Kelly Wiltshire's decision on whether to re-sign in Ottawa when he becomes a free agent in February may hinge on who's at the other end of the negotiating table.

The veteran is one of almost two dozen Renegades who will be free to test the waters next year, and yesterday he admitted that he might be less likely to return to the capital if coach Joe Paopao is not brought back.

"Yes, it could affect my decision possibly," said Wiltshire, the Renegades' nominee for most outstanding defensive player and most outstanding Canadian this season. "I just don't know yet. We still have one more game left and it's tough for me to think about anything else right now.

"But of course, there's a loyalty (to Paopao). When fans talk about replacing him, it's easy for them to say but they don't know his interactions with the individuals here, they don't know that he makes us better. He's like a father figure ... and him not being here could have an influence on certain players' decisions."

Wiltshire will extend his consecutive games-played streak to 144 (plus nine post-season contests) when he suits up tomorrow against Hamilton, despite a banged-up knee.

"It's the last game of the year. I want to play, I want to win," said Wiltshire. "After this, we have five months off. Like I said to the guys, 'Wouldn't it be nice to go out a winner?' It's been a tough year, this and that. But just win and have no regrets."

EXTRA POINTS: Rookie WR David Azzi will make his first official start this weekend, replacing SB Pat Woodcock (toe). SB Darryl Ray will take Woodcock's spot and serve as a backup ... S Shawn Gallant replaces S Greg Bearman (knee) ... If WR Yo Murphy does decide to retire after this season, Paopao will be sad to see him go. "If that's the case, I think people have been treated to a real pro player," Paopao said of Murphy, who last week became the Renegades' only 1,000-yard receiver.


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