Pottinger special and then some

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

Given a choice, Jason Pottinger would be a starting linebacker for the Argonauts this season.

But though the Whitby native has not been getting the kind of ink that has been spilled on big-name acquisitions such as Zeke Moreno and Rob Murphy, it would be difficult to underestimate what he brings to the Boatmen. In three years with the B.C. Lions, Pottinger developed into one of the top special teams players in the Canadian Football League.

"It's an outstanding addition for us to get a guy who understands special teams as well as he does," said Argos running back Bryan Crawford, who led Toronto with 25 special teams tackles last year.

"It's going to free up other guys to make plays because he is a guy who draws a lot of attention. He has to be considered by our opponents when they are preparing to play us. It's one of those intangibles that gets overlooked when you look at some of the big additions we made."

With Moreno, Willie Pile and Kevin Eiben backing the defensive line, Pottinger likely will see only backup duty. But when special teams are on the field, Pottinger will be in the spotlight. He was second in special teams tackles in the CFL a year ago with 30 and the Argos thought enough of Pottinger to send a first-round pick to the Lions to get him.

"In the end, every player's dream is to be a starter," Pottinger said. "But at the same time, the way to the top is through special teams. So you're damn right I take pride in it."

Though the sexy observation in football is to focus on the quarterback and what he does, field position is crucial, whether it's on offence or defence. Throwing blocks for kick returners or stifling your opponent with bad field position before it even gets on the field are integral.

Members of the special teams usually aren't starters on either side of the ball, but their contributions are as important.

"You can add 200 yards of field in a game just on special teams alone," Crawford said. "If you can get a couple of big returns it will set up your offence, and if you can limit the other team's return game, it makes all the difference."

Part of what makes the 6-foot-2, 222-pound Pottinger, who played college ball at McMaster before the Lions picked him second overall in 2006, is his ability to read the play. And then there is his durability -- Pottinger has not missed a regular-season game since he was drafted.

"He has rolled right in to fit the mould," Argos coach Bart Andrus said. "He has been helpful for other players who have not been in the kicking game in this league and has helped them make the transition. He's going to be a leader for us on special teams."

TERRY.KOSHAN@SUNMEDIA.CA


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