A major mystery in the CFL this season has been the dearth of carries by the Calgary Stampeders' star running back, Joffrey Reynolds.
"They've got one of the best backs in the league and they're not using him," B.C. Lions linebacker Otis Floyd observed. "I hope they keep doing that."
No kidding. Floyd and the Lions visit the troubled Stamps Friday night in a game that, on paper, should feature the two strongest teams in the CFL.
The Lions, however, have lost two consecutive games without their star quarterback, Dave Dickenson (concussion), while the Stamps languish in the Western Division cellar amid suggestions that Reynolds is being badly misused.
Last week, in a loss to the Alouettes in Montreal, Reynolds rushed only four times for 20 yards.
Wes Cates, discarded by the Stamps this year, has rushed five more times than Reynolds even though his team, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, relies primarily on passing. Some CFLers feel Cates is a leading candidate for outstanding-player honours in the league.
What's weird about this is that, even though Cates is excelling, the Riders are prepared to reduce his role.
See, the word in football circles is that Kenton Keith is failing again in his bid to make the NFL — this time, he's trying out with the Indianapolis Colts — and the consensus is that he soon will become available.
And the Riders are ready to welcome him back.
"I would go to the airport as quickly as I could and hug him at the bottom of the escalator," Eric Tillman, the Riders' general manager, told Murray McCormick of the Regina Leader-Post. "The guy is a special talent. We should have such a problem to add Kenton to the team.''
Keith, 27, is facing a charge of aggravated assault in Regina. No trial date has been set. Last year, his fifth with the Riders, Keith was chosen the team's premier player.
"There are reasons why your eyes are in the front of your head and not the back,'' Tillman said. "Since I stepped on Saskatchewan soil, my dealings with Kenton have been excellent. He has matured tremendously. He's a young guy who has made some mistakes but I really like him as a person.''
Cates had this to say about Keith: "He's one of the best running backs I have ever seen play. Barring injuries last year, he would have finished with the most yards in the CFL. If he does come back, hopefully we can find a way to incorporate him into the offence.''
But then Cates added: "Things are going good right now and I don't know why they would make any changes. I would hope they could get him back into the offence in other ways. I don't think they want to mess with what is happening now."
•A Vancouver-based energy healer is volunteering to treat Dave Dickenson for no charge and guarantees a quick return to the Lions' lineup for the veteran quarterback.
Dickenson has been sidelined for weeks because of his latest concussion. Sources have said Dickenson likely will miss the rest of this season and maybe even retire because of concerns that another blow to his head could seriously affect his life.
Ping Chiang, however, would like him to reconsider.
"Dave is young and strong," Chiang, an employee of the Burnaby Confederation Senior Centre, told me in an email. "I can put him back in the lineup very quickly. All he has to do is have trust in me — and I won't charge him a red cent. I love to see him play, and I want to continue seeing him play and play better than ever."
Chiang claims to have treated concussed athletes successfully in the past.
• B.C. kicker Paul McCallum usually makes field goals from 40 to 48 yards, but he missed two in his team's loss last week to Saskatchewan, and they were costly, to put it mildly.
So is B.C. general manager/head coach Wally Buono still comfortable with the 37-year-old kicker?
"It's not me who has to have the comfort with the kicker," Buono told Vancouver sports scribe Mike Beamish. "It's the team. Paul, last year, gave the team a tremendous amount of confidence. When your kicking position doesn't give that to your team, it's a very negative thing. It's the aura that player exudes to the rest of the team. If the aroma that player gives off doesn't smell too good, the whole team smells bad."
Here's what McCallum had to say:
"Every single play affects the outcome of a game, and there are about 150 of them. But you're always going to get those people who say, 'You [McCallum] lost the game.' Don Matthews said to me a long time ago — and I never played for him — that a kicker who kicks a winning field goal doesn't win the game. And a kicker who misses a field goal doesn't lose the game. Whether people agree with me or not, that's my philosophy. I didn't lose that game. The B.C. Lions did, and we have to move on."
• And, by the way, where is Don Matthews? And do you think somehow he'll still resurface in the CFL?
I have sources, believe it or not, who don't think it's out of the question. They suspect Matthews may still have one more life in the CFL — and maybe in Calgary if Tom Higgins doesn't last as the Stamps’head coach.
• The Stampeders, ranked by oddsmakers at the season's outset as co-favourites with the B.C. Lions to capture the Grey Cup, are in turmoil as they wallow in the cellar of the CFL's West Division.
"There's unrest," one of the Stamps revealed earlier this week. "It ain't pretty. We have issues."
- Receiver Marc Boerigter, who returned to the Stamps this season for a high salary (by CFL standards) of more than $150,000 after five years in the NFL, is fuming because Higgins has made him a healthy scratch for Friday night's game against the Lions.
- Reynolds is irked about not being handed the ball enough.
- Punter Burke Dales is upset because journeyman Duncan O'Mahony has replaced him..
- Some team members wouldn't mind if Higgins were replaced.
- Offensive players are questioning the philosophies of new co-ordinator George Cortez.
- The club is irked by the schedule, which has the Stamps playing on fewer days of rest than any team in the CFL.
Strangely, the Calgary defence is staying out of controversy — even though the Stamps have allowed the most points (210) in the league.
• McCallum was disbelieving when informed that the Stampeders are giving his predecessor, O'Mahony, a test as the team's punter.
"Really?" he said. "I think somebody must be pulling your leg."
Nope, no leg-pulling. It's true. Strange, mind you, but true.
• Every week this season, I make my traditional picks against the spread at the bottom of this column. I went 4-0 last week and am 19-9 on the season.
FRIDAY — B.C. at Calgary:
The Stampeders are favoured by two points. Neither team is living up to pre-season billings, but I expect the Lions to bounce back this week. B.C. coach Wally Buono loves beating his old team. And the Stamps are a seriously troubled team, with too many unhappy players. TAKE B.C. PLUS THE TWO POINTS.
SATURDAY—Edmonton at Saskatchewan:
The Roughriders are favoured by seven points. Kent Austin has done a terrific rebuilding job as a rookie coach in Saskatchewan. Makes you wonder what the heck Danny Barrett was doing all those years. The Riders, folks, are for real. The Esks, on the other hand, are banged up, and they're not very good when healthy. TAKE THE ROUGHRIDERS MINUS THE SEVEN POINTS.