Drew Tate, Nik Lewis. Nik Lewis, Drew Tate. Every day, a new chapter in the Calgary Stampeders’ drama. Every day, a new twist to the story.
In the lead-up to Sunday’s West Division final against the B.C. Lions, the Stampeders have been more of a soap opera than a football team. The latest breathless developments came Thursday when Tate was ruled out of Sunday’s game, officially because of a fractured right forearm, and Lewis finally apologized for an inappropriate message he’d sent on Twitter two days earlier.
Tate, Calgary’s starting quarterback, took a shot to the head from defensive lineman Tearrius George during the second quarter of Sunday’s 36-30 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Tate looked groggy after the hit, and told TSN that he didn’t remember a thing about the first half. Later, he insisted he was not concussed, and was only joking about the effects of the hit.
Tate didn’t practise Tuesday because of what the team originally described as a bruised forearm. The initial X-rays were negative, according to coach John Hufnagel, but further tests revealed there was a small fracture, effectively ending Tate’s season.
“I’m not too bummed, not as bad as you all probably think,” Tate said Wednesday. “But it is what it is. White horse keeps moving on, and it’ll be a fun game to watch Sunday.”
Kevin Glenn, who had been the Stampeders’ starting quarterback for most of the year after Tate dislocated a shoulder in July, will return to run the offence against a B.C. team that boasted the No. 1 defence in the league in the regular season. Overall, Glenn finished fourth in regular-season CFL passing yards, with 4,220, 11 shy of B.C.’s Travis Lulay.
The loss of Tate and the return of Glenn is good news for the Lions, who beat Glenn twice this season and had only a glimpse of Tate when he threw seven passes in a meaningless late-season game. B.C. coach Mike Benevides praised Glenn’s accurate passing, but said his team has ample film and strategies to take on the quarterback.
“Our players have played against him a lot, so we know exactly who Kevin is,” Benevides said Thursday.
Tate showed up for Thursday’s practice with a cast on his throwing arm and revealed that the break occurred in the third quarter of a game that Calgary won on a last-minute touchdown pass that he threw to Romby Bryant. For his performance – 363 passing yards and two touchdowns – Tate won the player-of-the-week honours.
“It happened in the third quarter,” said Tate, who gave Glenn the heads-up a few days ago that he might have to play Sunday. “[Tyron] Breckenridge shoelace-tackled me rolling into our sideline and I just went down on it. It didn’t really bother me until right before the last drive of the game. I was throwing with [Brad] Sinopoli and the ball just wasn’t coming out right and my hand wasn’t feeling right.
“I didn’t think anything of it, I just went in for that last drive, but that night, after the game, it just swelled up.”
Tate and Glenn alternated in the Stampeders’ final two regular-season games. Hufnagel decided to start Tate in the playoff game against Saskatchewan because of what he described as a “gut feeling,” a belief that Tate had, among other things, the greater ability to extend plays with his legs. However, Hufnagel described it as a “close” call and “not an easy decision,” which presumably will make the decision to go back to the 33-year-old Glenn easier as well.
“This has turned into a normal week for us,” Hufnagel said. “We’ve had to juggle our roster throughout. We’ve won 10 of the last 12. Kevin started eight of those wins, so we’ll just move on.”
As for Lewis, 24 hours after saying he didn’t believe an apology was warranted for an offensive tweet involving the infamous O.J. Simpson, he did offer a formal apology, in a statement issued through the team.
Lewis said it was not in his “character or nature to condone violence in any way, especially violence against women. I made a huge mistake with my tweet and I apologize sincerely to everyone. I am truly sorry.”
To make amends, Lewis said he would donate Sunday’s game cheque to the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter. The Stampeders plan to match Lewis’s contribution.
On Tuesday, the CFL fined Lewis an undisclosed amount for breaching the league’s social media policy after he’d tweeted: “I just bought OJ’s gloves on eBay. Now all I need is a white girl named Nicole.” He then added: #MaybeALittleToFar.
Not that it helps the Stampeders much this year, but on Thursday the CFL suspended George one game for that helmet-to-helmet hit on Tate. With Saskatchewan’s season over, George will sit out the first game of the Riders’ 2013 regular season.
“I guess 2012 just wasn’t my year,” Tate said, “but given the opportunity, I tried to contribute as best as I can, with the limited snaps that I had. Now, it’s in someone else’s hands.”
With a report from David Ebner