MONTREAL — The Montreal Alouettes' bye week was anything but peaceful.
The Alouettes (4-6) were destined for a positive break following a 29-28 thriller win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Since then, fullback Christophe Normand was arrested by provincial police for alleged child luring. The Alouettes suspended Normand, then released him on Aug. 30.
Alouettes minority owner Gary Stern announced that he was stepping away from day-to-day operations and resigned from his CFL board of governors role.
Finally, the Alouettes pulled the trigger on two trades. General manager Danny Maciocia’s most eye-catching move was ending the quarterback debate for good and sending Vernon Adams to the B.C. Lions for a 2023 first-round draft pick.
Maciocia said that he explained the team's situation with the players, and none of them had questions. For him, the page has been turned and Montreal is “dialled in” on an Eastern Conference clash with the Ottawa Redblacks to start Labour Day weekend on Friday night.
“The thing with me is that I'm transparent with these guys.” Maciocia said. “I know what they know and if I don’t think they know a particular thing, I'll address it.
“So I just walked them through the whole transaction with (Adams) and they're well aware of it because I'm sure (Adams) shared it with them. The ownership piece, (president) Mario Cecchini addressed it and there were no questions.”
The Redblacks (2-8) fell to the Alouettes 40-33 in their first matchup of the year on July 21 but are looking for a historic 100th win by an Ottawa team over Montreal. Quarterback Nick Arbuckle is now under centre and high from a 25-18 win over the Edmonton Elks in Week 12.
Ottawa will count on a second straight big game from returner DeVonte Dedmon after the 26-year-old returned from a stint with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. The CFL’s most outstanding special teams player last season racked up 70 yards from three punt returns in last week's win over the Elks.
Wide receiver Eugene Lewis said following Montreal’s last-second win in Week 11 that “if you win going into a bye week, it's another win.” Maciocia added that players were all smiles throughout the week in practice.
“You want to coach loose, you want to play loose, you want to play fast, you want to be physical, you want to be smart,” Maciocia said. “When you're coming off a sequence of victories it's easier, you feel free.
“When you've got that confidence, you start feeling that it's going to take quite a bit to prevent you from coming out on top.”
In the second of a four-game stint at Percival Molson Stadium, the Alouettes have the opportunity to improve their home record to 3-2. Montreal has long struggled to find results on their home turf. Since the 2015 season, the Alouettes only had one season with a winning home record.
“Especially with it being an Eastern (conference) game,” said Als quarterback Trevor Harris on the importance of Friday’s contest. “The difference between us winning and having six points between us and Ottawa versus losing and having two points between us, it becomes a crucial game.”
A win would also up their winning streak to three, a first this season, and challenge for first place in the East.
Harris stressed that the Alouettes understand the opportunity to impose themselves in an Eastern Conference which doesn’t have a team with a winning record. Toronto leads at 5-5.
“To me, it's time to put our foot on the accelerator,” Harris said. “Coming off of a bye week. It's time to push forward to do a little bit more things offensively defensively to try and generate pressure and confuse them.
"Do some things on special teams to make sure we're flipping the field and generating the field position we need and offensively staying on the football field finishing drives with sevens instead of threes.”
MONTREAL ALOUETTES (4-6) VS. OTTAWA REDBLACKS (2-8)
Friday, Percival Molson Stadium
HUNTING 100: Redblacks offensive lineman Hunter Steward will play his 100th CFL game. The Calgary native spent seven seasons with the BC Lions before heading to Ottawa for the 2022 season. Steward will be the starting left guard for the Redblacks.
ALS ADD TO DEFENCE: As part of two trades at the start of the week, the Montreal Alouettes acquired defensive lineman Thomas Costigan and defensive back Nafees Lyon from the Edmonton Elks. In return, Montreal sent defensive lineman Avery Ellis and a third-round pick in 2023 to Edmonton.
FEASTER NO MORE: The Alouettes announced that the team has released running back Tavien Feaster. The 24-year-old rushed for 62 yards and averaged 5.6 yards per carry in two games this season.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 1, 2022.
Tristan D’Amours, The Canadian Press