Fri Aug 05 10:21am EDT
The second episode of The Extra Yard, TSN and Aquila Productions' behind-the-scenes look at the Toronto Argonauts, aired Thursday night after the Argonauts' latest dismal loss to Montreal. Much like the first episode, this one had plenty of great highlights. Its focus was notably different, though, as rather than looking mostly at what went on during training camp, this episode centred in on the Argonauts' three-game opening road trip to Calgary, Winnipeg and Montreal. Here are five of the most interesting moments from the second episode.
— "For us, it's about us": Football motivational speeches are often notable, but not always for their eloquence. That was noticeable in the preparations for the Argonauts' first game in Calgary, where head coach/general manager Jim Barker (seen above watching kicker Grant Shaw warm up July 29) delivered the line "For us, it's about us," something that sounded like it should be a Yogi Berra quote — and not a particularly logical one. Barker's point was that the team had to play for each other, but there have to be better ways to say that. Personally, I preferred offensive line coach Stephen McAdoo's instructions to his guys before the same game; "You hit 'em in the mouth, you come out there and be physical and we got this game." (The offensive line in general was notable in this one; Rob Murphy, everyone's favourite CFL Twitter user, finally got some screen time and made the most of it, but McAdoo, Dominic Picard and plenty of the other big guys had plenty of interesting moments as well.)
— "Oh boy, we lost Pott...": One of the toughest blows the Argonauts have faced thus far was the loss of Jason Pottinger in that first game against the Stampeders. Pottinger, the team's starting middle linebacker and their key defensive playcaller, suffered an ACL injury that's likely to keep him out for the year. The Aquila Productions crew caught the injury on film, and most notably, they got immediate reaction from both Pottinger and Barker (who were both miked up during the game). It's one of the first times I've ever seen a player describing his own injuries, and you could sense how much pain Pottinger was in. At first, he was just lying on the ground and cursing "Oh sh*t," but then yelled "Shut the f*ck up" at the training staff that came out to help him. It was clear that was more just pain than anger, but that illustrated just how bad the injury was. We also got information on exactly what happened to him; the trainers asked if he got hit, and he replied "Nah, it just got stuck in the turf." It was also notable that the full severity of Pottinger's injury wasn't apparent at first, as it was thought that he might be able to return to the game. His loss was clearly a significant blow for Toronto, though, as evidenced by Barker's initial comments over the team radio to his staff when he was trying to figure out who was down. "Who is that? That's Pott? Oh boy, we lost Pott…
— Barker's Winnipeg meltdowns: Of the three games showcased on this episode, the Argonauts' 22-16 loss to Winnipeg in Week Two might have been the most frustrating. They won their initial game in Calgary and got cleaned by Montreal in Week Three, but actually played very well against the Blue Bombers, particularly on defence. They just couldn't put consistent offensive drives together, and that raised Barker's blood pressure significantly. At halftime, he was complaining about the numbers of flags the team was drawing, saying "Too many penalties… about every fricking thing you can do!" and "You're either going to buck up and be a championship team or you're going to wallow and walk out of here with your head between your legs." The Argonauts opted for the latter option, and that made Barker even less happy after the game, where he snapped at some unidentified person in the middle of a locker-room rant. "When you turn the ball over five times, when you don't play physical…shut the f*ck up! This is what happens!" He took particular exception to the play of the offensive line, and called them out as a unit, saying they'd better improve by the return match against Winnipeg in Week Four. "We play this team in two weeks. Offensive line, you'd better have your sh*t together." (By the way, it's notable that Barker's speech after this Thursday's game was even more inflammatory; hopefully that will make the next episode!)
— Alouette tensions: Week Three's clash against Montreal may have wound up as a not-terribly-close 40-17 blowout, but the rivalry got pretty intense at times. I loved the choice of Eminem's "Lose Yourself" as introductory music, even if the CFL schedule means by definition the Argonauts do get more than one shot at the Alouettes (fortunate for them, as they missed this one). One battle that was particularly captured on camera featured Picard and Montreal defensive end John Bowman, who started trash-talking each other before the game even started and kept it up all night, with Picard screaming "Get the f*ck out of here!" at one point. Barker's reaction during Anthony Calvillo's somewhat-controversial record-breaking touchdown pass (which was caught by Eric Deslauriers right near the back of the end zone) was priceless, too. "He was out of the back of the f*cking endzone!" The officials didn't buy it, but it illustrated just how amped up these guys get during games.
— "I f*cked up, Coach": Running back Chad Kackert infamously put the ball on the ground twice in this one, and Barker was unamused. The scathing sideline dressing-down he delivered was uncomfortable to watch, but indicative of just how serious this game is for many. "The last thing you want to do here is f*cking fumble," Barker said in a deceptively calm tone. "I mean, how do you do that?" All Kackert could offer was a humble "I f*cked up, Coach." Of course, Kackert's since recovered to have a couple of great games for the Argos, so all's well that ends well, but if primary running back Cory Boyd had been ready to return after that game, Kackert might have found himself riding the pine at best.
The next episode of The Extra Yard will air Friday, Sept. 2 at 10:30 p.m. Eastern following the B.C.-Toronto clash. Check out TSN's series hub to catch episodes you've missed or get more details on the show.