July 17, 2012
Boulay, Argos 'a good fit'
By FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
TORONTO - The timing of Étienne Boulay’s arrival in Argoland hasn’t been lost on the one-time Alouette, an opportunity this two-time Grey Cup champion vows to embrace.
At this point it’s unknown whether Boulay will make his debut in Double Blue as early as this Wednesday against the visiting Blue Bombers, a decision that will be made much clearer on Tuesday, but there’s no doubt Boulay will be in Montreal next week when the Argonauts tackle the host Als with first place in the East likely to be on the line.
“I’m not going to lie,’’ said Boulay, a stand-up kind of guy who is eager to get back to his tackling and dominant style. “I did look at the schedule, but I’m not looking past Winnipeg.”
When someone such as Boulay spends six years with the same team and is suddenly informed that he longer merits a job, feelings of disappointment and shock are inevitable, feelings Boulay is now turning into motivation.
His football life, at least the one Boulay, has ever known, came crashing down last October when he suffered a concussion.
He would the miss balance of the season and would only return to the playing field this year when he appeared in one pre-season with the Als, a team that would release this defensive back/special teams demon.
“I’ve been training hard and I’ve made a lot of sacrifices since October,’’ he said. “It’s been difficult. I’ve never been injured before and I had a bad one. Playing in that pre-season was an important psychological barrier to overcome.”
A handful of suitors came calling as Boulay bided his time in the Montreal area, where he worked with his strength coach and speed coach.
As Boulay well knows, being in shape is one thing, being in football-playing shape is quite another, the only measuring stick being measured when one sees action in a live game.
“I feel I have something to prove,’’ said Boulay, who made his comment without any traces of arrogance. “I feel I have to prove something to myself and to everyone.
“When you get fired, whether it’s from a professional football team or in a normal job environment, at first it’s difficult to swallow. But I have a lot of friends over there (Als) and I wish them the best of luck.”
In Toronto, the Argos are hoping Boulay, the East Division’s rookie nominee in 2006, can provide leadership and stability, especially on special teams.
His familiarity with Chris Jones’ defence will help in the learning curve.
“Strategically, it’s easier to learn special teams than defence because special teams is all about assignment, effort and being in the right place,’’ added Boulay. “But whatever role they have for me, I’ll do my best.”
Best case, Boulay suits up on Wednesday, sees limited action in the defensive secondary and plays a lot on special teams.
The ultimate scenario would see Boulay getting extended minutes in Montreal next Friday and making plays that help the Argos produce a win.
“I feel good,’’ said Boulay. “Being here is a good fit. When I was released, I was in shock, I didn’t expect it at all, but sometimes that’s part of the business.”
Argos GM Jim Barker, who has a history with Boulay, had no reservations in signing a player with concussion history.
“He runs, is fast, is a physical player, knows Chris Jones’ defence, has experience, has won big games,’’ began Barker. “What’s not to like about him?”
As Barker pointed out, Boulay was cleared to play last year by the Als.
Barker also pointed to Argos’ star running back Cory Boyd’s history of concussions.
“If we had gotten rid of him because of concussions, that wouldn’t have been the brightest move,’’ said Barker. “When dealing with concussions, you just don’t know.
“We feel very comfortable with him (Boulay). Our doctors have cleared him, he’s done all the impact tests and all the protocol.”
The Als used their 2006 second-round pick to select Boulay, who played his collegiate football at New Hampshire, the same school that produced Argos backup tailback Chad Kackert and Ticat defensive back Ryan Hinds.
In Montreal, Boulay recorded 127 defensive tackles, 43 special teams tackles and produced 11 interceptions.
O'SHEA: IT'S ALL MY FAULT
The plight of Toronto’s special teams has deteriorated to the point where co-ordinator Mike O’Shea can’t even sleep and is almost afraid to show his face in Argoland given the damage that has been caused.
Naturally, O’Shea has no control when a ball gets snapped, a hold is executed and a field goal attempted. But he can control how players are taught, which players are selected to cover punts and quite bluntly O’Shea has come up woefully short on his end.
In one of those rare moments when a coach actually takes ownership, O’Shea pointed the finger at himself on Monday as the Argonauts compressed a lot in preparation for Wednesday’s visit by Winnipeg.
“Sometimes in my sleep I break it down,’’ said O’Shea of the many breakdowns that has led to three returns for touchdowns in two weeks, including back-to-back missed field-goal returns of 125 yards and 119 yards. “The root of the issue goes back to training camp.
“I didn’t spend enough time on coverage lanes and responsibility. I spent more time on operation time and blocking assignment.”
Another mitigating factor is the absence of veterans on the Argos, a list that once included the likes of Bryan Crawford, Willie Pile, Kevin Eiben and Jeremy Untertl.
“That was a huge oversight on my part,’’ said O’Shea, who admitted he did take into account the many young faces on this year’s group, almost assuming they didn’t require coaching.
“I should have started to detail things. I know what I did wrong and I know how to fix it.”
When asked why the oversights were allowed to go unnoticed, O’Shea was as blunt as any of his tackles during his playing days.
“I think I was spoiled the first two years,” he said, “with guys who know me, the players who were here. I think I was spoiled and took it for granted.
“It’s bitten us in the butts and I can’t let it happen again.”