HAMILTON — As the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ final full practice before Saturday’s game grinds to a half, Bo Smith doesn’t look like a defensive back ready to take on one of the most feared passing attacks in the league.
But looks can be deceiving.
Just back from an attempt to crack the roster of the New York Jets, Smith had his right hand heavily bandaged to protect a finger he dislocated his first practice back with his beloved Tabbies.
Smith waves it off like it’s nothing more than a mosquito bite.
He has got bigger concerns and they begin with re-acquainting himself with the Ticats defence, which he committed to memory a year ago, re-acquainting himself with his fellow Ticats defenders which took him all of a day, and finally re-acquainting himself with the Saskatchewan Roughriders receiving corps, which continues to go through Andy Fantuz and which stands between the Ticats and their sixth win in the past seven games Saturday night.
Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant has a plethora of receiving weapons at his disposal and Smith and the Ticats secondary are going to have to be on their “A” game if they hope to contain the vaunted Riders passing attack.
It starts with Fantuz, the Western grad who leads the Riders in catches (57), yardage via the pass (875) and tied for receiving touchdowns with four.
Weston Dressler, the pint-sized import in his third year in the CFL isn’t far behind with 51 catches and 793 yards.
Shut down those two and the Riders still have another pair of 500-yard receivers in good Kingston boy Rob Bagg and Regina’s own Chris Getzlaf, brother of Anaheim Ducks star Ryan Getzlaf.
Smith and Geoff Tisdale, who moves back inside to halfback after filling the cornerback spot Smith vacated, will be the two Ticats most under the gun.
Playing the weak side, Tisdale expects to see a lot of Dressler while Smith is planning on seeing a huge serving of Fantuz.
Tiger-Cats head coach Marcel Bellefeuille is extremely comfortable throwing Smith, who only returned to Hamilton on Monday, right into the fire.
“He just finished an NFL pre-season and he played against some pretty good quarterbacks and receivers,” Bellefeuille reasoned. “So the skill level should not be an issue. More for me is where is his conditioning level at? You have to play 60-plus plays and run around so we’ll limit his duties on special teams to help with that.”
As disappointing as being one of the final cuts at Jets camp had to be, Smith was thrilled with the opportunity to return to Hamilton and his timing couldn’t have been better.
Hamilton lost the services of halfback Jason Shivers on the first series of the game last week against the B.C. Lions. With starting corner Jykine Bradley already on the injured list, Smith’s return plugs a huge hole.
For Tisdale, it’s like turning back the clock although there is that little re-adjustment to halfback after playing the corner for the first 11 games of the season. Tisdale sounds perfectly happy to make whatever change necessary to play beside Smith again.
“Me and Bo, we trust each other,” Tisdale said. “That’s the main part. I know I’m not going to leave him to hang and he’s not going to leave me hanging. We just go out and do what we’ve been doing the past two years.”
And as for the opponents and all those gaudy receiving numbers, Tisdale has no problem giving them credit, but he’ll demand some in return as well.
“Fantuz is a real good player,” he said. “All of them are good. They’ve got a nice receiving corps, but you know what? We’ve got some nice DB’s too. It’s like we always say: Respect all but fear none.”