Matt Nichols is the latest CFL opening-day starter to go down.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers announced Monday that Nichols (upper body) will go on the six-game injured list. He was hurt in last week’s 32-16 win over the B.C. Lions.
Nichols will be re-evaluated in four-to-six weeks but won’t require surgery. Sophomore Chris Streveler now moves under centre.
Under Nichols, Winnipeg (7-2) opened the season with five consecutive wins and has won two straight to stand atop the West Division. The Bombers are also tied with Hamilton (7-2) for the CFL’s best record.
Nicholas has completed 171-of-240 passes (71.3 per cent) for 1,936 yards with a CFL-best 15 TD passes and just five interceptions. But the eight-year veteran has yet to register a 300-yard performance this season.
Nichols becomes the seventh opening-day starter to miss time this season due to injury. The others include Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell, Saskatchewan’s Zach Collaros (now in Toronto), the Argos’ James Franklin, Hamilton’s Jeremiah Masoli, Ottawa’s Dominique Davis and Montreal’s Antonio Pipkin.
Davis and Pipkin have both returned to their respective teams although Vernon Adams Jr. has effectively supplanted Pipkin as Montreal’s starter. Franklin has resumed practising while Mitchell did so before returning to the six-game list.
Edmonton’s Trevor Harris and B.C.’s Mike Reilly are the only remaining opening-day starters to still be standing at the halfway mark of the regular season. That’s an incredible testament to Reilly’s toughness as B.C. has allowed a CFL-high 36 sacks.
Edmonton, by comparison, have surrendered a league-low three sacks. Harris leads the CFL in pass attempts (361), completions (260) and yards (3,051) with 13 TDs and just two interceptions, the fewest among league starters.
WILDER JR. STILL AN ARGO: James Wilder Jr. remains a Toronto Argonaut, at least for now.
The veteran running back practised Monday, two days after meeting with head coach Corey Chamblin and GM Jim Popp regarding his future with the club. The sitdown came after Wilder — who missed two contests with a rib injury — was scratched prior to the Argos’ 41-26 home loss to the Edmonton Eskimos, a decision Chamblin said was ultimately his.
The move fuelled speculation Wilder Jr., the CFL’s top rookie in 2017, was on the trade block. Chamblin refuted that following Friday night’s game but couldn’t guarantee either Wilder’s long-term future or even his own Monday.
“I can’t say (Wilder will be with Argos) for the rest of the season,” Chamblin said. “I don’t even know if I will be the coach for the rest of the season.
“That’s just the world we live in.”
Given Toronto (1-7) is last in the East Division, no one’s future — players, coaches or management — is secure. And Chamblin wouldn’t discount the idea of Wilder being dealt.
“I foresee him being with us this week unless something changes, and like I told him, ‘Hey it’s week to week,”’ Chamblin said. “We’d never do anything to harm his career … and if that means him becoming the starting tailback and putting his career back on track we’re going to do that.
“If that means he’s traded if we can’t find that situation then we’ll do that. I think that’s where we are now, finding what’s the best fit for all of us to make this a winning situation.”
Toronto split its running back duties Friday night between veteran Chris Rainey and Brandon Burks. Rainey ran for a team-high 58 yards on eight carries (7.2-yard average) while Burks had 43 yards on five carries (8.6-yard average).
Wilder is Toronto’s second-leading rusher with 161 yards on 38 carries (4.2-yard average). He’s also added 26 catches for 260 yards and two TDs.
Also on Monday, incumbent McLeod Bethel-Thompson practised with the starting offence while former starter James Franklin worked out with the second unit. Franklin has been on the six-game injured list with a hamstring ailment but resumed practising last week.
Collaros, acquired from Saskatchewan on July 31, again threw on the side. Collaros started the Riders’ season-opening contest but went on the six-game injured list after being hit in the head by Hamilton linebacker Simoni Lawerence, who was subsequently suspended for two games by the CFL.
HISTORIC ACHIEVEMENT: Andrew Harris had more to celebrate Thursday night than another Winnipeg Blue Bombers victory.
The 32-year-old Winnipeg native became the all-time leading Canadian in yards from scrimmage during the Bombers’ 32-16 win over the B.C. Lions. Harris ran for 73 yards on 14 carries to boost his career total to 13,377 yards and surpass Ben Cahoon (13,368) for top spot.
Ray Elgaard (13,289), Jim Young (10,098) and Norm Kwong (9,925) round out the top five. The four players behind Harris are all in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame but that honour will certainly have to wait as the five-foot-10, 216-pound Harris is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Harris leads the CFL in rushing (819 yards) and is averaging a stellar 6.4 yards per carry. He’s on pace for over 1,600 yards, which would surpass his career high of 1,390 yards registered last year.
Harris is chasing a third straight CFL rushing title and fifth career 1,000-yard campaign.
But Harris is much more than just a runner. He’s also recorded 45 catches for 322 yards with three TDs this year.
Harris, in his 10th CFL season, has rushed for 8,477 yards (5.4-yard average) and 46 TDs while adding 683 receptions for 4,900 yards and 30 touchdowns. He’s also the only player in league history to surpass 4,000 yards rushing with two different teams (B.C., Winnipeg).
And with Nichols sidelined, Harris will be even more important to Winnipeg’s offence.
TICATS WINNING: The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are chalking up wins without starter Jeremiah Masoli.
Backup Dane Evans threw for 300 yards and two TDs to lead Hamilton to a 21-7 road win over the Ottawa Redblacks on Saturday. It was Evans’ second straight winning start after taking over for Masoli, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in a 23-19 win over Winnipeg on July 26.
Hamilton accumulated 433 total yards but it was hardly a stellar outing. Evans was intercepted twice in the red zone and the Ticats punted nine times.
Yet Hamilton (7-2) remains firmly atop the East Division — six points ahead of second-place Montreal — and tied with Winnipeg for the CFL’s best record. The Ticats visit the B.C. Lions (1-8) on Saturday.
Evans has completed 66-of-100 passes for 756 yards with four TDs and three interceptions over his three starts.
OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS: Much has happened since the Ottawa Redblacks and Saskatchewan Roughriders last met.
On June 20, Ottawa beat Saskatchewan 44-41 at TD Place. The win improved the Redblacks to 2-0 while the Riders fell to 0-2.
Since then, Saskatchewan has won five-of-six games while Ottawa is 1-6. The Redblacks (3-6) visit the Riders (5-3) on Saturday.