Joel Wright has joined a dubious fraternity.
Wright, 29, a safety and special-teams player with the Montreal Alouettes, suffered a season-ending knee injury during a wild on-field celebration in a 28-24 victory over the B.C. Lions on Sept. 13. The amiable Wright, in his fourth season with the Als, unfortunately takes his place with the likes of Gus Ferrotte and Bill Gramatica, fellow football players who’ve suffered self-inflicted injuries following excessive, sometimes bizarre on-field celebrations.
“Oh I hear about it all the time and I have no problem with that because I’d be the first one to ridicule someone who did the same thing,” said Wright, a typical special-teams player who covers kicks with an infectious passion and tenacity. “Everyone knows that’s the type of player I am and these guys are my family and it’s OK when you’re family is giving it to you.
“It’s outside of football that drives me crazy but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If you only see what happened in the game you don’t understand all the preparation and work that goes into it. It just sucks that I’ve done it 1,000 times before and, of course, the one time on national television when the cameras are right in my face I do it but, hey, life goes on. They only give people obstacles who can overcome them so that’s what I’m hoping for.”
The five-foot-11, 190-pound Wright, a native of Stoney Creek, Ont., had made a nice tackle following a first-half kickoff and jumped high into the air in celebration. But he landed awkwardly, injuring the anterior cruciate ligament.
“When I landed, it was like walking down a set of stairs and you think it’s right there and when it’s not you kind of stretch out your leg and you feel like you hyper-extend it,” Wright said. “That’s what it felt like at first.
“I got up really quick, walked off and we went to the change-room and they (team officials) were, ‘No, there’s something more than that in there.”’
Ferrotte made headlines for all the wrong reasons in ’97 when he celebrated throwing a TD pass by head-butting a wall while with the Washington Redskins. Gramatica was the butt of endless jokes, too, when he suffered a season-ending knee injury celebrating a field goal he kicked for the Arizona Cardinals in 2001.
Over a week later, Wright still doesn’t know the full extent of the injury or whether he requires surgery. What he does know is he’s now on the nine-game injured list, effectively ending his season.
Wright, who played his university football at Wilfrid Laurier, isn’t letting the injury keep him down. He receives daily treatment and still watches film looking for tendencies that will help his teammates.
However, when asked how he felt having to watch Montreal’s 33-14 win over Winnipeg from the sidelines Sunday, Wright commented dryly, “It sucked!”
“The only thing is I’m not physically on the field with them but mentally and in the classroom I’m there just the same,” Wright said. “It’s helped take my mind off it because I know if I was sitting at home right now icing my leg down I’d be thinking about it all the time.”
POLICY REVIEW: The CFL is reviewing its field security policy after a fan climbed a goalpost at Ivor Wynne Stadium during the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ 24-17 win over the Calgary Stampeders on Friday night.
The incident occurred late in the fourth quarter and the fan got high enough on the upright that he was able to grab the wind flag that was attached atop it. After unsuccessfully trying to yank the flag free, the fan slid down and walked across the crossbar before being arrested.
BUONO’S RECORD: Wally Buono of the B.C. Lions became the winningest head coach in CFL history Saturday, recording his 232nd career victory with a 23-17 home decision over the Toronto Argonauts.
That broke a tie with Don Matthews, who was in attendance Saturday night. While records are indeed set to be broken, Buono’s mark is one that could very well stand the test of time.
First of all, there’s the time element to consider. Buono is in his 20th season as a CFL head coach while Matthews spent 22 seasons on the sidelines. There simply aren’t many who get the chance to be a head coach for that long, or really want to.
And then there’s the challenge of continually having to field a winning team over such a long haul, and with multiple franchises. Buono has won consistently with Calgary and now B.C. while Matthews coached six different CFL teams, some more than once.