What too many wins will do to you...

I was told that there was an interview with Robert Wettenhall (the Alouettes' owner) in yesterday's Montreal Gazette. I haven't read it, but I was told about it.

Here's what was the bottom line of the article.

Wettenhall gave the Alouettes an ultimatum: if you don't win this week, I'll clean up the house.

How crazy is that? I know the Alouettes aren't as dominant as they were in the past 9 years, but threatening to fire plenty of players because the team plays for .500 is overeacting.

In fact, BC and Hamilton aside, I don't remember any year during which all teams were so evenly matched. This is great for the league. The Als are in the East third place now. They could be in first in three weeks and then back in third two weeks later. That's the beauty of having many good teams in the league.

How would have Wettenhall react had he been the owner of the Roughriders (no home playoff game in 15 years) or the Tiger-Cats (10-33-1 record over the last three years)? Wettenhall was spoiled by too many wins over the last 9 years.

Get back to Earth Bob! You can't expect to just crush the opposition all the time. Your team isn't bad. It just went back in the pack. Just get the players to work a bit harder and things will be fine.

Gezz...

Do-or-die time for Als' defence

HERB ZURKOWSKY
The Gazette

Thursday, August 25, 2005

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:: Chronic sleep disorder hasn't stopped Vaughn

Head coach Don Matthews dined at the downtown condominium of Alouettes owner Robert Wetenhall last Saturday, and you can be sure they discussed more than pate de foie gras.

There has been a whirlwind of talks this week between Wetenhall, president Larry Smith and general manager Jim Popp following the team's loss at home to Calgary last Thursday, allowing 40 points in the process. And you can be sure more intensified debate will occur should Montreal lose tomorrow night at Edmonton. The Als reach the halfway mark in the regular season with the game, and a defeat would drop their record to an unflattering 4-5. The team lost only four games last season.

"We talked about the balance of this year. I was encouraged by (Matthews's) approach and enthusiasm," Wetenhall revealed. "We're going to change up the defence considerably. We expect to win this week and next week against Ottawa. That would put us at 6-4, back where we've historically been.

"If not, we'll have to retool. Don will have to look at the personnel and schemes."

It's no secret the Als are attempting to make adjustments on defence, where most of the problems lie. The team is playing more conventionally, occasionally using a three-man front, and blitzing less frequently. Montreal is benching rush-end Marc Megna and defensive-tackle John Nix against Edmonton. Newcomer Clay Roberson and Mawuko Tugbenyoh, a pair of ends, are being activated.

And yesterday the Als were forced to make an additional change. Defensive-back James Whitley awoke with a tight hamstring and didn't practise. He'll be replaced by Taqiy Muhammad, a 5-foot-11, 182-pound rookie out of South Carolina making his CFL debut.

Wetenhall and Smith said the problem stems from the personnel and adjusting to a new defensive scheme. Both gave Matthews a ringing endorsement.

"He needs the right personnel," Wetenhall said.

"Ed Philion has been splendid and Robert Brown has played well," Wetenhall added. "We have to make sure the rush ends are up to their potential. I think the coach knows where the weaknesses are. I've been in contact with Larry several times. He's contacted Jim. He's on the case.

"I would suggest to you that we have not declined in ability as much as it may appear, and other teams haven't improved in ability as much as it appears."

Perhaps not, but the Alouettes also are entering the most telling stage of their season. Of their remaining 10 games, six are on the road, including long trips to Edmonton, B.C., Calgary and Saskatchewan. They also host the undefeated Lions in October and have a game scheduled for Olympic Stadium against Toronto on Oct. 22 - a game that could be difficult to sell depending on Montreal's record.

"Our antennae are up," Smith said. "I'd like to be better ... but (it's more important) to be there at the end of the year. I hope to see improvement. We just need to strengthen the defence.

"We might make an adjustment or two with the players, but the nucleus is strong. If we didn't have the players, we wouldn't be 4-4, we'd be 0-8. But the losses to Ottawa and Calgary show a consistency issue. We have to focus on improving. We know we have talent."

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:: Chronic sleep disorder hasn't stopped Vaughn

...Continued

The challenges undoubtedly become more difficult with the loss of Whitley, an NFL veteran. Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray will attempt to exploit Muhammad, who will have a bull's eye on his uniform.

"Ball is ball," said Muhammad, who has been practising with the Alouettes since early this month. "I have to use my technique and play ball.

"It's not 'can I?' I have to."

Muhammad will do fine, according to Whitley, provided he communicates with cornerback Almondo Curry and the two players are on the same page and correct positions in their coverage.

"He'll do good," Whitley said. "He has an aggressive style and is eager to play."

Note - Former Als running-back Michael Jenkins, who failed to dress for a regular-season game this season before being released, will be added to Edmonton's practice roster.

hzurkowsky@thegazette.canwest.com

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2005

Chronic sleep disorder hasn't stopped Vaughn

HERB ZURKOWSKY
The Gazette

August 20, 2005

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CREDIT: DAVE SIDAWAY, THE GAZETTE
"If I lose focus on certain things, I tend to drift off and nod off quite often," Alouettes receiver Terry Vaughn, shown here being tackled by the Toronto Argonauts' Clifford Ivory after making catch during game this season. "It's not something I try to do."

Terry Vaughn was up at the crack of dawn yesterday - a day off for the Alouettes - to get in a round of golf at The Challenger with several of his teammates. After lunch, he returned home and settled into his bed for a power nap.

And it had nothing to do with his getting up early or the previous night's game against the Calgary Stampeders.

The 33-year-old slotback, in his first season with Montreal, suffers from a mild form of narcolepsy - a chronic sleeping disorder with wide-ranging symptoms, including severe daytime drowsiness. It isn't uncommon for Vaughn, in his 11th CFL season, to fall asleep during team meetings or film review sessions.

Fortunately, sleep has never been an issue during games, and Vaughn caught seven passes for 100 yards - including a 39-yarder and one touchdown - in a losing cause against the Stamps. With 12,412 career yards, he became the fourth-leading receiver in league history, surpassing Don Narcisse.

"If I lose focus on certain things, I tend to drift off and nod off quite often," Vaughn admitted. "It's not something I try to do.

"I'm kind of unique," he added. "I can go to sleep literally at the snap of a finger. If I'm tired or exhausted, I can go to sleep that quickly."

Vaughn has slept through alarms. Seldom does he remain awake during team flights. When the lights are turned off in a room, his symptoms are triggered.

The condition was diagnosed while Vaughn - drafted by the New York Yankees - starred for the University of Arizona. One night, while driving home at

2 a.m., Vaughn fell asleep for 10 or 15 minutes at an intersection. Miraculously, he put the car's transmission in park before nodding off.

"The officer tapped on my window with his nightstick, waking me up," Vaughn remembered. "I told the police who I was and they followed me home. That was the end of it."

Alarmed nonetheless, Vaughn huddled with the team's trainers and they sent him to see a doctor.

"When I had that first incident it scared me," he said.

Vaughn takes no medication and doesn't plan to unless his condition deteriorates.

With 39 receptions for 474 yards, he is nearly halfway to his 11th consecutive 1,000-yard season, a feat that never has been accomplished in the CFL. That he has done so despite standing only 5-foot-9 and weighing 205 pounds is all the more remarkable.

Vaughn has succeeded with a series of shifty moves and soft hands. He's smart, strong, quick, durable and reliable, often beating double and triple coverage. He's most effective gaining yards after the reception.

"Coming out of college, I aspired to play pro in the NFL," he said. "Honestly, I thought I'd play two years. I'm a fairly simple person. I wanted to play and make enough money to pay for a home. That was my goal. Twelve, 13 years later, I'm still playing. I wouldn't say I'm lucky, but I do take care of my body. I never drink or smoke, and get the most out of my body."

Age is beginning to creep up on the veteran. He was bothered by knee, ankle and rib injuries last season and underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last spring. Nonetheless, when he was pitched to the Als last April by Edmonton, Montreal general manager Jim Popp sat up and took notice, hoping Vaughn's presence would compensate for the losses of Jeremaine Copeland and Thyron Anderson.

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Continued

A trade was completed during the Canadian college draft: Vaughn came east with a draft choice for backup safety William Loftus.

Vaughn is still trying to get in sync with quarterback Anthony Calvillo and has yet to feel totally comfortable.

"To me, catching balls and running the routes is a piece of cake," he said. "But I feel I'm not in my rhythm yet."

There would be no better time than on Friday, when Vaughn returns to Commonwealth Stadium against the Eskimos. Vaughn spent six seasons with Edmonton and the inconsistent Alouettes, now 4-4, run the risk of falling below .500 - again - as they reach the halfway mark of the schedule.

"To be quite honest, I want to win, no doubt, and play well and dominate," Vaughn said. "It's my old team. Of course, I want us to play well as a team."

hzurkowsky@thegazette.canwest.com

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2005

What a difference a year makes!

Last year Montreal was dominating in the East, and the west was up for grabs.

This year the Lions are dominating the West and the East is up for grabs, though Toronto is slowly putting away with the title.

Yeah, that's what winning will do to you. It's all relative. Here in Calgary, we are absolutely tickled PINK being at .500. We've already equalled last year's win total! It's not impossible, or even unlikely, that we could equal our combined win total from the past two years (9). Meanwhile, in Montreal they're screaming for heads to roll. It's the nature of the business ... Basically, they have to appease the fans. The fans are used to winning 13 games a year, and they don't see that happening this year - and they want to, they expect(ed) to! If Wettenhall doesn't do something, it's HIS head they'll be screaming for. In Montreal, anything less than a Grey Cup is unacceptable ... And for them to drop off so quickly, rather than a slow decline over a few years, is a real kick in the crotch. Sure, they're competitive this year. But Toronto is perenially just over .500, and Ottawa could still be an "early-season fluke". My point is, Montreal "should" be winning a lot more, not being spared 4th place by the 0-8 Ti-Cats!
I'm not concerned, though, about them selling tickets to their game at the Big Owe vs Toronto (even if they have a mediocre record). Logically, all those people on the season-tickets waiting list would buy tickets ... and it's against Toronto.
I just really want to see Ottawa in the playoffs ... and hosting a game isn't out of the question :wink: That would be ideal ... c'mon, Gades :?