'Gade finally catching on

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:54 AM ET

For all those fans who fancied receiver Pat Woodcock being a home run hitter, Renegades coach/GM Joe Paopao has some news for you.

Woodcock, a much-heralded free-agent signing before last season, is a singles and doubles guy.

"You have six receivers and it's like a batting order," Paopao said yesterday. "Your top three guys are your core guys and you expect them to have 1-to-4 catches a game."

So where does Woodcock fit into the picture?

"He's in the middle of the batting order," said Paopao.

After being pretty much ignored in the previous two games, Woodcock came close to hitting for what amounted to the cycle Thursday against the Edmonton Eskimos.

Woodcock led Ottawa receivers with seven catches for 98 yards (with a long of 29) and had a touchdown, his first of the CFL season. He should have had two, but, after running an outstanding corner route, he was overthrown by quarterback Kerry Joseph.

Those seven catches represent a single-game high for Woodcock in a Renegades uniform (his previous best was five, which he had on two occasions last year).

The Woodcock saga has been a constant theme with the Renegades since his arrival in February of 2004. A free agent, he was wooed with newspaper ads placed by the previous Renegades ownership.

We might not have seen as much hype around an athlete here since Alexandre Daigle was the top pick by the Senators in the 1993 NHL draft.

The media has to take its fair share of blame for that, but in both the Daigle and Woodcock cases, the media was communicating the messages being pumped out by the organizations.

It is a fact in pro sports that big contracts always inspire big expectations, and Woodcock got a nice deal.

Like Daigle before him, who wouldn't take it when it was offered?

RECORD TD CATCH

Woodcock has simply been a victim of over-heated expectations here, fuelled by a high-profile play in the 2002 Grey Cup game when he set a record with a 99-yard touchdown reception.

He was named the Most Outstanding Canadian in that game.

He had decent numbers in Montreal, but couldn't outrun the perception held by some that he benefited from being part of an outstanding receiving corps with the Als, the intimation being opposing defences focused on others, opening room for him.

If that was the case, then the Renegades' ownership and marketers at the time did both themselves and Woodcock a disservice by cranking up the hype machine.

Make no mistake about it, Woodcock is a good football player. He does his job on the field, plays tough when he has to (remember that hit he took against Winnipeg last year?), and has been a tireless worker promoting the Renegades in our community and lending his name and time to numerous charitable causes.

He's a pro.

Expecting him to come back to his hometown and be a "go-to" receiver was probably asking for too much, as it turns out.

I can't recall Woodcock saying anything that encouraged the media, the Renegades or their fans to have such high expectations for him.

That was done for him.

He has shown up, battled through injuries and done his best with what he has been given.

Can you ask any more than that?

It is not Woodcock's fault he might have been built up to be something he is not capable of being in the current situation.

In no way should that take away from what he is.

NOTES: Paopao still doesn't know who's going to be available for Friday's game against the Roughriders in Saskatchewan. Kicker Matt Kellett booted around a soccer ball yesterday, testing the sore groin that made him a last-minute scratch from Thursday's loss. The club yesterday worked out Mark Irvin, the Gloucester product who has attended the Calgary Stampeders and Roughriders camps, and impressed Paopao at the Renegades' free-agent camp last April at the University of Ottawa ... In light of another broken bone in his hand suffered Thursday, centre Mike Sutherland could be out for a month. Paopao's search for an offensive lineman could lead him to Freddie Moore, a tackle who was released by the B.C. Lions. Moore could be in camp as early as tomorrow when practice resumes.


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