The biggest question facing Joe Paopao this week is one he has no intention of answering in newspapers the Montreal Alouettes can read.
So unless they get crazy and send a spy to the Renegades practice or something, the blitz-happy, rules-manipulating Als aren't going to know who will start for Ottawa at the sensitive position of left tackle Friday night.
However, the site of Reggie Nelson watching yesterday's workouts from the Frank Clair Stadium sideline with his swollen right ankle wrapped in ice and resting on a Gatorade barrel -- and the assumption it's too late to parachute a 300-pounder here in time for the Canada Day home opener -- would appear to narrow Paopao's options.
In no particular order, they seem to be A) Marc Parenteau, who struggled in his pro debut Friday against an Eskimos defence that recorded seven sacks and B) George Hudson, who is one of the better centres in the CFL but barely has more experience than Parenteau at left tackle.
"It's cool," Hudson said after taking numerous reps at the hot spot yesterday. "The O-line is the O-line. I'll do whatever the coaches tell me."
Hudson, an agile and nimble-footed 305-pounder, never played tackle before lining up at the right end during a training camp tryout with the Dallas Cowboys in 2000. He spent most of the Eskimos' 2001 camp at left tackle, then played two pre-season games and two more games there during the regular campaign. (Last year's media guide tells us Hudson also played two games at left tackle as an emergency replacement in 2003, but if so it wasn't so much a memorable experience for the man himself, as he neglected to mention that brief stint).
Asked if he'd be comfortable starting at left tackle against Montreal, Hudson shrugged.
"For sure, why not?" he replied.
"It's a mass of humanity," he said of the Als' pressure defence. "They try to throw as much at you as they can. We just have to try and sort it out and see how it goes from there."
While rookie Jean-Francois Roy will play centre if Hudson makes the switch, Paopao is looking for the "right combination" to give quarterback Kerry Joseph a chance (at success and survival), and that may include dressing seven O-linemen for the game, which would be one more than usual. Mike Sutherland is unlikely to be one of them, however. The veteran guard/centre, who broke a finger in camp, did practise yesterday, but Paopao said he's probably not ready to suit up for a game.
Import guard Morris Unutoa could come off the practice roster, Paopao also admitted, but it's not known when Nelson will be ready to return from an ankle he sprained in the second pre-season game.
"It feels better but there's still a lot of swelling," Nelson said. "It's a stability thing. I have to have some stability in it if I'm going to do what I do. We've got 17 games left, it's a long season. If one more week makes it better, I guess that's what it will have to be."
Also missing practice were middle linebacker Keaton Cromartie, who suffered a mild concussion in Edmonton when he was hit by teammate Kyries Hebert, and defensive end Kai Ellis, who has a bad ankle. A.C. Collier will come off the practice roster and take Ellis' spot if he can't go this week, while Jason Kralt will likely continue as Cromartie's replacement if necessary.