MEET UP: Rougenoirs hope coach’s barbecue will help team win

“When you face adversity, you have to stick together.”

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Nothing like a good old barbecue to bring together a football team.

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Earlier this week, Ottawa Redblacks coach Paul LaPolice and his wife Tina invited the team to Chez LaPolice in the Stittsville area. There was splashing around in the backyard pool, lots of food (handled by Smokin’ R&Rs) and, perhaps most importantly, lots of laughs. In a sport where togetherness can keep a team going, a family barbecue can do wonders.

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After an 0-6 start to the season in the CFL, the Rouge et Noir are looking to clinch first place on Sunday in Toronto. And any bit of positivity they can find right now certainly won’t hurt.

“It’s something we planned a few months ago,” LaPolice said. “I wanted to have the whole squad and with COVID last year we couldn’t do that. It was a good place because we had a lot of free time between games. The best teams I’ve been on are the ones that have been close. (Being close) is important whether you win games or lose games. In the face of adversity, you have to stick together. »

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Staying together means finding a way to overcome what has been a tough losing streak; the most recent was a 40-33 loss to Montreal at home last Thursday.

It was business as usual on Wednesday as the team prepares to face the Argos, who hold first place in the CFL East Division with a 3-2 record. Montreal has two wins, while Hamilton has one. So even with their 0-6 record, the Redblacks are still in the hunt for a playoff spot – with plenty of games to play against their Eastern rivals.

“We want to come to work prepared and ready to play our next game,” LaPolice said. “Play as hard as you can, be focused and ready to go. Don’t feel sorry for anything. Just be ready to go.

GET A CHANCE: Two weeks ago, in a 25-23 loss to the Tiger-Cats, Redblacks defensive back Hakeem Bailey put on a show – with five tackles, one interception (in the end zone) and a forced fumble to his second regular season game in the CFL. The 25-year-old, who hadn’t played in a game since 2019, showed he was capable of making a difference when given the chance.

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“(Going into the game) I felt like I had a great week of practice, I was just flying,” he said. “I took that same mentality into the game.”

Replacing Money Hunter at cornerback, Bailey was hoping for an opportunity. While awaiting a call to play professional football (he was signed by the Redblacks in May), Bailey practiced every day, while working at Finish Line (back in Georgia). In a preseason game against Montreal, Bailey gave the Rouge et Noir a taste of what he was capable of – with two interceptions.

“It drives you crazy, you want it so badly, you want to play football,” Bailey said. “There were days when it was tough. But I never thought I was going to give up. I have a great support system with my family and friends – they thought I would be great if I stuck with it. I thought, ‘Just stand ready and stay humble.’ I think the last two years have really humbled me – being away from the game. It’s just allowed me to really focus mentally on football.

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Bailey said he struggled in training, hoping to earn the trust of his coaches.

“In practice, I’m proud of all my reps,” he said. “I push myself into the scout team reps, treat it like a game. The more reps I get, the better. I have been released. But with each opportunity, I gained more knowledge. You can’t see things as a failure. I used to do that, but not anymore. ‘What did I learn from this experience, how can it help me in the future?’ I’m still learning, every day is something new. I know I can play football at a high level.

THE END AROUND: Receiver Ryan Davis, who caught 55 passes for 589 yards and two touchdowns in his rookie season, could join the Redblacks’ starting lineup this week. Davis (knee) is off the six-game injured list. Said LaPolice: “We hope he will be back. He’s been preparing for two weeks – six-game guys have a week to practice. The guy made a lot of plays for us last year, he’s a good receiver. Defensive back Abdul Kanneh also took a lot of reps in Wednesday’s practice and could return. Even though defensive back Money Hunter hasn’t practiced, the team isn’t ruling him out… The Rouge et Noir have signed American defensive lineman Antonio Simmons (Georgia Tech). He joined the Montreal Alouettes in 2019, then was traded to the Edmonton Elks (as part of the deal with Trevor Harris) last season. Released by the Elks in training camp, he joined the Alouettes — playing three games. The 26-year-old appeared in 30 CFL games, with 63 tackles, six sacks and a forced fumble… Former Rouge et Noir QB Harris was named one of the CFL’s top players of the week last; so did Argos receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. (who hails from Ottawa), who had eight receptions for a career-high 152 yards and a touchdown… The Argos are the early favorites by 5.5 points to beat Ottawa. Five of six CFL.ca contributors (excluding Matt Cauz) picked Toronto to beat the Redblacks… The latest CFL Power rankings rank Ottawa ninth, one behind Hamilton. As for the Eastern Division rivals: Toronto is ranked fourth, while Montreal is sixth.

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