Stamps coach trashing the talk Higgins wants an end to all the name calling
Friday, September 28, 2007
The slaggin' wagon has been making regular stops at the doorstep of the B.C. Lions, but there'll be no trash deposits today when the Calgary Stampeders arrive for Saturday's game at BC Place.
Tom Higgins, the Stampeders head coach and VP of football operations, has grown tired of the harangues, putdowns, name calling and unprofessionalism that permeate the eight-team house league.
No one is exempt -- executives, coaches, players, media -- and, Higgins says, enough is enough.
"We're a family, and family matters should be kept in the confines of the family," Higgins said Thursday. "If I was upset with Wally [Buono] I'd call him up and talk it out, man to man. I'm not going out to belittle anybody else. I hope nobody would do that to me. Our family and our organization would like it to stop."
Higgins will concede the Stampeders were one of last season's major offenders by allowing motormouths such as Nik Lewis and Jeremaine Copeland to run on and on. Among other silly and pointless observations, they labelled Geroy Simon's touchdown pose as "gay."
It's different this year. A monolithic graphic "One," with the skyline of Calgary superimposed in the foreground, graces the cover of this year's Stampeders media guide and represents the team's philosophy. One city, one team, one voice. No incorrigibly opinionated personalities getting up on their respective pulpits -- at least that's the hope.
"It's not who Nik Lewis and Jeremaine Copeland are this year," Higgins maintains. "They've bought into the philosophy of the organization, and they're better people for it. They're better teammates for it."
The Stampeders were fined $10,000 earlier this week for public criticism of the officials in last Friday's game in Hamilton.
Calgary quarterback Henry Burris was drilled by linebacker Zeke Moreno while out of bounds on the play. Burris not only got his shoulder wrecked, but there was no roughing or unsportsmanlike call. Had there been, the Stampeders would have lined up on first down, from the Hamilton two-yard line, with 45 seconds left. Calgary eventually lost the game 24-20.
Higgins defends Calgary's public rebuke because it adhered to the team's philosophy: It was one voice, president Ted Hellard, reading from a prepared statement, and the club was well aware on the consequences and the likely fine.
"It was read and that was the end of it," Higgins says. "The commissioner did exactly what he had to do and we moved on."
In light of the continual tongue-lashings against Lions offensive linemen Rob Murphy and Jason Jimenez over supposedly dastardly deeds, Higgins is keeping the finger on his players' mute button. He says his team has no issue with Murphimenez, except the puzzling issue of how to neutralize them.
"No, they're not dirty," Higgins says. "They're just very good football players. They're coached to be tough and aggressive, and I see absolutely nothing wrong with the two of them."
Higgins' words are not a revelation -- Winnipeg head coach Doug Berry said much the same thing after two of his players joined the "dirtiest players in the CFL" chorus -- but they are refreshing. And welcomed by Lions president Bob Ackles.
"Rob Murphy's allowed two sacks in two years. That's unheard of, in any league," Ackles says. "There seems to be a thing out there that if you can't beat 'im, you'd better say something bad about him. It's unfortunate, because the accusations tarnish a very good football team. I don't want to say anything more about that guy from Saskatchewan [GM Eric Tillman] because I don't want to get fined. I still have to put my grandkids through college."
Among others who recognize Murphy's prowess are Roughriders Fred Perry, Marcus Adams and, surprisingly, John Chick, the very player Murphy pinned by the throat in a brawl last Saturday in Regina.
What upsets Murphy, though, is that the private view is not reflected in the public stance.
"Eric Tillman's come up to me twice this year," Murphy says. "His exact words to me were: 'F--- what everybody else is saying in the media. I love the way you play. Don't stop. Keep playing that way.' That's his exact words. He says I'm the best O-lineman in the league. At the same time, he turns around and says I'm dirty."
Tillman, $1,000 lighter in the pocketbook, has paid for his candour.
Higgins suggests that the true cost of the league's dirty laundry, continually flapping in the breeze, is much firstname.lastname@example.org
Very refreshing stance from coach Higgins here. I must say that I truly respect him as a coach in the CFL.