November 17, 2017

Hogan: Argos looking for a special effort on special teams

Terrance Plummer (47) of the Toronto Argonauts during the team practice in Toronto, ON, Thursday Nov. 16, 2017. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

It was cold, there were occasional raindrops and it was really, really windy. In other words, the weather was perfect.

The Argos held practice Thursday at Downsview in preparation for Sunday’s playoff game against Saskatchewan at BMO Field. The environment gave the team a chance to practice in less than ideal conditions, important because the forecast is calling for strong winds on game day.

That practice may have been especially important for one group.

Windy days can lead to wildly entertaining play on special teams. Punting into the wind can be problematic. Kickoffs into a strong breeze may end up being extremely short, leading some coaches to come out of their comfort zone a little bit, attempting onside kicks or ‘pooch’ kickoffs when normally they’d kick it deep.

Argos head coach Marc Trestman not only accepts the challenge of a strong-wind day, he looks forward to it.

“I try to embrace every part of it,” said Trestman. “The beauty of this game is it’s a thinking person’s game. It’s created that way. It’s something I’ve learned in the six years and I continue to learn is that these rules were created for a reason and they force you to think and they force your players to think and it’s an exciting process to have to go through.”

Trestman’s reputation is that of a calculated tactician, a chess master always thinking two or three moves ahead. According to Argos special teams coordinator Kevin Eiben, despite that facade, don’t think that Trestman won’t reach into his bag of tricks should the proper situation arise.

“If the time presents itself where there’s something available to us,” explained Eiben, “we’ll weigh the time and place, where we are in the game, are we up are we down? There’s a lot of things that go into every decision, but I would not call him a conservative coach.”


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The players most challenged by a windy day are the kickers. For Lirim Hajrullahu it’s nothing new. He played in Winnipeg for a couple of seasons where they get more than their fair share of windy days, but has also seen that kind of weather at university with Western and here with the Argos.

He’s also used his team’s early exits from the playoffs to his advantage.

“The years I wasn’t in the playoffs I’d be out there practicing as if we were practicing to be in the Grey Cup,” Hajrullahu told “I’m prepared. I’ve prepared myself to the best of my ability to compete on Sunday and to be a positive factor for our team.”

It’s not just the kicker, but the cover teams that have to be cognizant of the conditions. Awareness of the five-yard ‘halo’ on punts has been preached over the week. A team racking up several no-yards penalties could negatively sway the outcome of the game.

And then there’s the other side of the kicking game. The returners also have to battle the breeze. For the Argos, the player who sees the most action in that department is Martese Jackson.

For him, the toughest part of a windy day is simply tracking the football.

“Just seeing the ball and knowing if it’s going to keep going or if it’s going to drop,” said Jackson. “Just knowing which way the wind is blowing, if it’s going to be a short kick or if it’s going to carry. Just knowing the conditions.”

That sounds like a simple thing to do, but Hajrullahu says it’s sometimes a little more difficult than how it seems from the stands.

“Sometimes when you’re on the field it’s a different wind than when you’re sitting down because you’re covered,” said the kicker. “And when you get on the field and you’re in the open area it’s a totally different feel.”

Thursday’s weather may have been a blessing to the Argos, as what they practiced will still be fresh in their minds should the wind be a factor come game day.