C.J. Gable has only played 12 games for the Ticats in two years.
By Steve Milton
Let's get right to the obvious.
This Hamilton Tiger-Cats coaching staff has always believed they have the best all-round running back in the Canadian Football League but C.J. Gable knows — and he knows that his employers know — he has to stay healthy this year.
"I'm always thinking that, but I'm not going to think negatively," the fourth-year Ticat said after Wednesday's shorter, but intense, practice at Ron Joyce Stadium.
"I've always said, 'This year I'm going to stay injury-free; take care of my body.' But the stuff that's happened I couldn't really prevent from happening."
This is true. One of the reasons, besides the fact that when he plays he's usually terrific, that Gable hasn't suffered the same we're-moving-in-another-direction fate that befalls just about every other running back in professional football who has missed two-thirds of the regular-season games over two years, is that the injuries which sidelined him have not been chronic.
After a brilliant rookie season in 2013, Gable played only seven games in 2014 because of first a foot, then almost immediately, a shoulder, injury. Last year, he and Andy Fantuz both incurred serious elbow injuries in the same game and he played only five in total.
There has been nothing to suggest that any of those injuries would repeat themselves, and they haven't. But there is unspoken pressure for Gable to remain on the field this season. In the pro game, you only get to roll the dice so many times before you're asked to move away from the table.
"I put that pressure on myself," Gable says. "I don't want to let the team down. If I'm in there you see a big difference, we can do a lot of stuff. When I'm out, they sometimes have to change stuff around, and I don't want that. I want to keep it going."
The Ticats have always come up with a capable replacement tailbacks — the likes of Ray Holley, Mossis Madu and Nic Grigsby — when Gable has been hurt, but this year it seems that they've actively sought American backs who are more of the Gable mould: well-sized; hard-running; able to run good routes and catch the ball; and, just as important, strong and intelligent blockers. Recent history has taught them they have to.
Michael Ford had two stints with the club last year and is back again, while newcomers Ross Scheuerman out of Lafayette, and Da'Rel Scott, who tore it up at Maryland, have impressive resumes.
Kent Austin understands the perception that there is a more Gable-esque presence waiting in the wings, while pointing out that Scheuerman does have a somewhat different skill set.
Two-years ago, Scheuerman had the sixth highest all-purpose yardage total in the entire U.S. college system while Scott won the Pennsylvania state high school 100-metre championship, was with the New York Giants for three years and scored pre-season touchdowns on a 97-yard run and a 65-yard fake punt.
And Scott, who spent time with Winnipeg, says he can block in this league.
"I worked on it in college and I was able to protect Eli (Manning)." he says. "I think I've shown that on film, because they trusted me to be a third-down back with the Giants. I think I can gain their confidence here."
Confidence from the coaching staff is central to every player's survival. The man Scott, Ford and Scheuerman are trying to unseat, or at least back up, has that confidence and deservedly so, based on his play.
But that's exactly where it's at for C.J. Gable ... he has to be able to email@example.com
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