Years ago, the wife of then-star quarterback Matt Dunigan was so worried about the concussions her husband kept suffering that she encouraged him to end his illustrious career in the CFL.
“I’m worried,” she told me at the time, “that Matt won’t be able to talk sensibly to me or our kids the rest of our lives.”
Nowadays, Dunigan talks sensibly (most of the time) about the CFL at the TSN studio. But he still gets headaches and blinks frequently and, sources close to him say, he continues to suffer from post-concussion syndrome.
Depending on whom you believe, Dunigan had eight to 12 concussions during his CFL career.
Dave Dickenson is catching up. Depending on whom you believe, the B.C. Lions’ quarterback suffered either his third or fourth concussion last week, when he was struck in the chin by the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ Fred Perry.
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Wally Buono, Dickenson’s coach in B.C., fumed about the hit, claiming it was dirty, but the CFL has cleared Perry of all wrongdoing. And that means Dickenson and other QBs are vulnerable to more concussions from shots such as the one Perry took.
Dickenson missed the Lions’ game Thursday night against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats because of the concerns over his most recent concussion.
And sources close to him say Dickenson is now being pressured by his wife and family to strongly consider retirement should he suffer another concussion.
“The symptoms are already evident in Dave,” a friend of Dickenson's tells us. “His loved ones don’t want him being a zombie in life. His health, of course, is more important to them than football.”
•Another former CFL quarterback, by the way, emphatically defended Perry.
Mind you, Kent Austin also happens to be Perry’s coach in Saskatchewan.
"Fred has worked very hard at establishing a reputation that is worthy of his character," Austin was quoted as saying. "He's a good player, he's a good person and to paint him as a cheap-shot player that deserves to be fined or suspended first of all is not the call of anybody but the league and second of all is an injustice and is dishonoring to a player to paint him like that publicly."
Austin was part of the CFL rules committee that, prior to this season, upgraded roughing-the-passer rules to increase the protection of QBs.
• The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are wretched, of course, but there is a bright spot on their defence at middle linebacker, where Zeke (And Destroy) Moreno is playing.
The 28-year-old Californian entered this week with the second-most tackles in the CFL, only one behind the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ Barrin Simpson(23).
Moreno played in the National Football League for four years before joining the Ticats this season. He’s been surprised by what he’s seen in the CFL.
"You hear that this is a passing league but they do run the ball a lot,” he was quoted as saying. “Thirty-five to 40 per cent of the time, we’re seeing runs, and that’s a lot."
• As reported earlier this week in Metro newspapers and on this web site, Tom Higgins is in jeopardy of losing his job as the Calgary Stampeders’ coach.
Two sources have passed on word that the club’s managing partner, Ted Hellard, is running out of patience with Higgins. The Stamps were slaughtered in their most recent games, in Saskatchewan and in Toronto, and another rout Saturday night against Toronto will mean Higgins is a goner, the sources say.
Who’d take over?
Probably Jim Barker, the Argonauts’ former head coach. Barker is in the Stamps’ front office these days.
• Higgins’ departure would not please Calgary quarterback Henry Burris, we understand.
What Burris wouldn’t mind, though, would be a change of offensive co-ordinators, we hear. We’re told Burris isn’t wild about George Cortez, who replaced Steve Buratto as offensive co-ordinator in Calgary.
Buratto was fired by Higgins after last season, for reasons that are still unclear. He is now the offensive co-ordinator with the Argonauts.
• Glen Johnson officiated his 300th career game Thursday night in Montreal. He is in his 18th season as a CFL zebra.
“I’m so fortunate and blessed to be a part of such a great sporting tradition as the CFL and to do something I love doing every weekend,” Johnson was quoted as saying in a release from the league. “People ask me why I do this. It’s because I love this game and what it stands for. I’ve made some great friends all across the country through the game.”
A resident of Etobicoke, Ont., Johnson was born in Winnipeg and was raised with the CFL all around him. Johnson’s father, Gord, was a CFL official for 16 years and officiated in four Grey Cup games.
Glen is nowhere near the top of officiated games. Here’s the list of most games officiated by those still active in the CFL:
Al McColman - Field Judge – 571 games.
Ken Lazaruk - Referee – 530 games.
Jake Ireland - Referee – 527 games.
Don Ellis - Back Judge – 454 games.
Bud Steen - Referee – 450 games.
Ross Saunders - Head Linesman – 394 games.
Dave Hutton - Umpire – 360 games.
Bill Hagans - Umpire – 317 games.
Heinz Brademann - Back Judge – 309 games.
Glen Johnson - Referee – 299 games.
Murray Clarke - Referee – 297 games.
• Every week this season, I make my traditional picks against the spread at the bottom of this column. I went 2-2 last week and am 7-5 on the season.
THURSDAY – Winnipeg at Montreal:
The Alouettes are favoured by 2.5 points. For the first time in years, the Bombers are better than the Als. TAKE WINIPEG PLUS THE 2.5 POINTS.
THURSDAY – Hamilton at B.C.:
The Lions are favoured by 15.5 points. The Lions will be without Dave Dickenson (concussion) but Buck Pierce is a reliable backup. And the Tiger-Cats smell. TAKE THE LIONS MINUS THE 15.5 POINTS.
FRIDAY –-Saskatchewan at Edmonton:
The Eskimos are favoured by three points. There are problems in Edmonton, with players unhappy. I’ll elaborate down the road. In the meantime. . .TAKE THE ROUGHRIDERS PLUS THE THREE POINTS.
SATURDAY – Toronto at Calgary:
The Stampeders are favoured by three points. I know what you’re thinking – that the Argonauts trounced the Stamps only last week. Ah, but this tilt is in Calgary, and the Argos are going with a new quarterback (Mike McMahon) because of Michael Bishop’s injury (wrist). And the home team will be playing to keep their coach (Tom Higgins) around. TAKE CALGARY MINUS THE THREE POINTS.