Jacques Chapdelaine admitted his heart skipped a beat when he saw the player go down. That it happened to be Darian Durant, the Alouettes’ starting quarterback, only magnified the situation.
“You don’t want see anybody get hurt in practice,” Chapdelaine said Tuesday afternoon, after the Als practiced once at Bishop’s University. “You certainly don’t want to see that happen — ever again.”
Near the end of the workout, Durant planted his knee to complete a pass. A player rolled into the veteran quarterback’s left knee. Durant eventually had to be assisted from the field and taken to the sideline, where athletic therapist Rodney Sassi worked on him, almost immediately applying ice to prevent swelling. The two eventually left for the dressing room.
While Chapdelaine was loath to speculate until having further conversations with Sassi, he was cautiously optimistic the damage would be minimal simply because the therapist didn’t communicate with him or seem distressed. Even should Durant be present Wednesday morning for the first of two scheduled practices, he’ll almost certainly be held out for precautionary purposes.
“We’ll have to see how long it takes him to feel good about what happened today,” Chapdelaine said.
On Tuesday night, Durant texted the Montreal Gazette, writing: “Everything is fine. I’ll be back at practice in a day or so.”
Durant, of course, is the Als’ meal ticket this season as they attempt to make the playoffs for the first time since 2014. He was acquired in a trade in January from Saskatchewan when it became apparent the Roughriders had no intention of signing the potential free agent.
Durant hasn’t played a full season since 2010 and has had major injuries recently, including a torn tendon in his right elbow along with a ruptured left Achilles tendon. He missed three games last season with a high ankle sprain.
“This isn’t him being vulnerable to something. This is us having to be a little smarter in the way we practise,” Chapdelaine said.
Montreal quarterbacks wear a distinctive navy blue practice jersey so they stand out in a crowd. They also generally have a buffer zone around them and aren’t to be touched, let alone tackled. While Tuesday’s mishap clearly was an accident, Chapdelaine also elected to practise outdoors while it was raining.
“You want to have a certain level of competition and you have to get everyone to play and practise at a certain tempo,” Chapdelaine said. “But at the same time, it’s important for us to respect each other and make sure we come out of here with all of our elements.”
Durant’s one of four quarterbacks at camp — a traditionally low number for this franchise — although philosophies obviously have changed since Kavis Reed replaced Jim Popp as general manager. Durant is joined by Vernon Adams, now in his second season with Montreal; Jacory Harris, acquired in a trade from Hamilton, and rookie Matthew Schiltz, who played collegiately at Butler.
Canadian Football League teams dress three quarterbacks and generally retain a fourth on the practice roster. Both Rakeem Cato and Jonathan Crompton were released over the winter. Cato wasn’t going to be the starter, while Crompton wasn’t even in line to be second-string, according to Chapdelaine.
Chapdelaine said it’s still premature to speculate on who will play June 8, when the Als launch their exhibition schedule in Toronto. But he said he would like to see Schiltz for at least a quarter, since he’s unlikely to play the following week, against Ottawa.
Chapdelaine also said it’s too early to determine who would back up Durant and be next in line in the event of an injury. “Right now it’s a healthy competition,” the coach said.
Training camp is only three days old, and Chapdelaine has already seen his starting quarterback hurt and middle-linebacker Bear Woods released on Monday. What else can go wrong?
Reed and Chapdelaine conversed on Tuesday after it appeared the two had different agendas a day earlier over the release of Woods, the East Division’s outstanding defensive player last season. Whether they agree or not, the message from management always must be the same — and it’s generally considered wise for a coach to support his boss.
(Herb Zurkowsky/Montreal Gazette)