Hamilton offensive co-ordinator Tommy Condell can expect some help running the Tiger-Cats' offence the remainder of the season.
Starting quarterback Zach Collaros met with reporters Tuesday, a day after Hamilton announced its star quarterback suffered a season-ending knee injury in Saturday's 25-18 home loss to the Edmonton Eskimos. An MRI revealed Collaros tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and will require surgery next month once swelling in the joint subsides.
"I've told Tommy I've been drawing up plays already," a jovial Collaros said. "I think he's going to let me call plays for this (Oct. 2 home game versus Calgary).
"I told Tommy as soon as the (Edmonton) game was over with, 'Hey man, I want to have a role . . . He always tells me he's going to hire me as (a coaching intern) and throw things at me.' Whatever it is, I just want to be a part of something."
Collaros spoke tongue firmly in cheek but the Ohio native was crystal clear that he's not about to abandon his teammates now that his season is done.
"I've been playing team sports all my life and you don't get that feeling sitting at home," Collaros said. "I love my family, I'm excited to see my niece when I get home . . . but I love being around these guys and I couldn't go home and sit around.
"Rehab usually starts 48 hours after surgery so I'll take those 48 hours to sulk a little bit, maybe watch some romantic comedy movies or something to try and lift my spirit then come back and get ready to go."
Collaros tried hard to put a positive spin on his situation with timely jokes and an ever-present smile. But to his credit, he didn't try masking his disappointment.
"I was bummed and I'm still kind of bummed," he said. "We were having a great season and we're still going to have a great season but everything was clicking.
"But at the same time I'm excited for this challenge. I think only positive things are going to come from it."
Collaros missed four starts last year with a concussion before returning to lead Hamilton to a second straight Grey Cup berth. Collaros knew Saturday after conferring with head athletic therapist Carly Vandergrient his prognosis wasn't good, but he plans to "attack" his rehab program.
"I'm a big believer in mind over matter and I think if you believe something usually it happens and it's going to come true if you work hard enough for it," he said. "I actually think this is going to be a better situation than the concussion . . . because you're able to attack the rehab whereas with the concussion you're not able to do anything."
Collaros was enjoying a banner '15 campaign, leading the CFL in passing yards (3,376), touchdowns (25) and passer rating (113.7). He was instrumental in Hamilton (8-4) moving atop the East Division and was regarded as the favourite for the league's outstanding player award.
But questions now exist about Hamilton's offence after backups Jeff Mathews and Jacory Harris both struggled against Edmonton. Mathews had two of his three interceptions returned for touchdowns while Harris's lost fumble set up the Eskimos' winning TD.
And with Ottawa (7-4), Toronto (6-5) and Montreal (5-6) all within striking distance, the East Division appears to be wide open.
Austin has time to decide on Collaros's replacement but all signs point to Mathews starting against Calgary. Mathews knows Austin's offence — he played collegiately for Austin at Cornell — and for Austin familiarity would far outweigh veteran experience acquired in a trade with just six regular-season games remaining.
"The problem is there's a huge learning curve in our offence and especially behind the centre," Austin said. "Having experience in our offence and understanding how to execute the offence, in my opinion, can be more important than experience.
"Jeff is very bright and will be very well prepared . . . It's important we don't ask him to do too much but we ask him to do enough."
Austin also expects Hamilton's offence to change somewhat with a new starter but wouldn't divulge exactly how.
"We'll build around the skillset of the guy that's behind the centre," he said. "We're going to do what we need to do in order to win football games."
The loss of a leader and offensive catalyst can be devastating to a franchise. But Austin believes Hamilton has the strong veteran leadership to deal with Collaros's absence.
"Accountability comes from the team," Austin said. "It's a loss and our guys will rally . . . we'll see what this team is made of.
"I think we have a good locker room, a good group of guys and I think they'll be ready to play each and every week. We'll carry on and carry forward."