There's not much going on around here and this will likely be the last column on this blog for 2012. Vacation starts Thursday and runs until January 6 and I don't know at this point how much blog activity there will be. The Riders are in the off-season, the Pats are on the road and the NHL is off all-together with no signs of coming back. However we DID manage to find some news so here it is this morning along with some surprise 40th birthday photos and an NFL notebook. Thanks for reading:
* Sportsnet's Arash Madani reported on the Sports Cage on Friday that he expects the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to officially announce the hiring of Kent Austin as coach and GM sometime this week. It will be very interesting to see Kent in Black and Gold for the first time in his coaching career.
* We got into a heckuvan argument on Four Seasons Football Friday, Scott Schultz and I, about whether or not Austin will be successful in Steeltown in year one. I say they'll be an immediate Grey Cup contender while he says Hamilton has a much longer way to go than the 2007 Riders did when Austin took over. Time will tell. What's your opinion on that?
* Schultz feels the bloom is off the Austin rose somewhat due to the fact he's a combined 11-19 during his three seasons at Cornell.
* Ticats quarterback Henry Burris seemed somewhat miffed at the firing of coach George Cortez and was asked on a Calgary radio station last week how it will affect the team. "Who knows at this point?" Burris answered. "When you see things like this, it throws a wrench in the entire system." Burris is 38 years old and is a guy I can see playing well into his 40's.
* The conventional wisdom in the CFL is that Bob Wylie will be the next offensive line coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. But not so fast. The Riders have asked for - and received - permission from the B.C. Lions to talk to their running backs coach and CFL Draft coordinator Kelly Bates about the job. Bates is a Humboldt, SK product and is likely interested in the position.
* Meanwhile we've learned the Ottawa CFL team has approached Roy Shivers about a personnel position with their fledgling franchise. I'm told though, it would have to be a really sweet deal because Roy has a great situation with the B.C. Lions. One thing about Roy though, he loves a challenge so this could be down his alley.
* On Thursday 40-year old Anthony Calvillo signed a two contract to return as quarterback of the Montreal Alouettes. That same teammate of Anthony's which I wrote about on Friday said Calvillo is coming back because of Montreal's distasteful loss to Toronto in the Eastern Final. Had the Als advanced to the Grey Cup, Calvillo might have considered hanging them up but doesn't want to go out this way.
* Various CFL types will be dressing up as Santa Claus over the holiday season. In the Vancouver area, Lions players Travis Lulay and Paul McCallum are taking turns donning the Santa suit and posing for photos at Kitsilano's Girlz Rock Boutique. Here in Regina, CKRM football analyst John Lynch will dress up as Santa Claus this week for some Access 7 Christmas TV programs!
* CFL Presidents met in Las Vegas last week. Was there nowhere good enough in Canada??
* Rider special teams coordinator Craig Dickenson and his brother Dave (offensive coordinator of the Stampeders) enjoyed Sunday's Vikings-Rams games in St. Louis. They witnessed quite a day for Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. All that info is recapped below. St. Louis is like Dallas - it's not a #1 tourist destination but it's an amazing city. They're both great American sports towns.
* Someone asked on the weekend if Weston Dressler works at Schultz-Gareau Insurance in the off-season. The answer is no, he does not. However he does voice radio spots for Scott Schultz's company.
* Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun points out the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were the only CFL team without a local player on its roster in 2012. The Roughriders had to lead the league in that category with the likes of: Neal Hughes, Graham Bell, Scott McHenry, Chris Getzlaf, Jordan Sisco, Brendon Labatte, Patrick Neufeld, Ben Heenan, Dan Clark, Zack Evans, Graig Newman and Paul Woldu. Did I miss anyone?
* That torch was lit by Eric Tillman and passed to Brendan Taman who's still running with it.
* Congratulations to Toronto Argonauts GM Jim Barker who has won our fictitious Ken Preston Award as CFL GM of the Year as voted on by you the fans.
* Please take the time to vote in the new Titan Auto Poll for CFL Coach of the Year. So far Toronto's Scott Milanovich is running away with it.
* Have you watched the HBO documentary NAMATH, chronicling the life and times of Joe Namath? It's absolutely staggering. A must-see.
* Great to see the Dallas Cowboys pull off the 27-24 OT win over Pittsburgh on Sunday. Domenico Fiacco and I had a bet of a Christmas lunch over the outcome and my team won. I suggested we go to the Hotel Saskatchewan for that lunch and he said he'll get McDonalds takeout and eat it in their lobby!
* His brother Tony (not the politician) still owes me for losing the bet that Mike Tomlin would be a Rider guest coach in 2012!
Some photos from the surprise 40th birthday bash for yours truly Saturday night at the Press Box Sports Bar:
This was one of those "Hire A Nerd" girls who showed up and did her best to embarrass the birthday boy. In all, 68 of my closest friends were on hand for the bash. Thank you!
An overhwhelming gift from the owners of the Press Box Sports Bar. Amazing!
With real estate tycoon Craig Adam and his wife Deb Duncan. Craig took my under his wing at Mount Royal College in Calgary when I was 17 years old and we've been tight ever since.
Mrs. SportsCage definitely outdid herself with this one.
My Mom with the Lynch Mob....
Having a laugh with Huntsy....
Joe Gunnis, Carm and Cindy and in the background, the Powells and the Clarkes....
Al Dumba and the Old Guy....
Donelda and Tina Exner with Cindy Dumba in between....
The Molson gang along with my brother and his wife.....
And it was starting to clear out by the time the Schillers and the Rashovichs showed up....
AGAIN THANKS TO EVERYONE FOR A GREAT BIRTHDAY!! Also thanks to the over 200 people who sent messages on Facebook. Can you believe Jerrell Freeman of the Indianapolis Colts even took time to write, on a game day!? What a nice guy.
And it feels great to be a part of the Over The Hill Gang..
Week 15 NFL Notebook:
Catch Monday Night Football tonight at the Press Box Sports Bar ($7.99 full rib dinner) and watch the N.Y. Jets at Tennessee (7:30 p.m.). Coach Rex Ryan and the Jets (6-7) continue their late-season playoff push against the Titans (4-9). New York needs to win to stay alive in the playoff race.
Week 15 STARS
- Tony Romo, Cowboys, was 30 for 42 for 341 yards and two TD passes in a 27-24 overtime win over Pittsburgh. Romo surpassed 25,000 yards passing in the win and is the 64th NFL player to go over the 25,000-yard mark.
- Kirk Cousins, Redskins, was 26 for 37 for 329 yards with two TD passes and an interception in his first career start in Washington's 38-21 win over Cleveland.
- Colin Kaepernick, 49ers, threw for four touchdowns in San Francisco's 41-34 win over the New England Patriots.
- Drew Brees, Saints, finished 26 for 39 for 307 yards with four TD passes in New Orleans' 41-0 win over Tampa Bay. Brees has at least 300 yards passing and four touchdowns in a game 17 times and passed Hall of Famer Dan Marino (16) for the most in NFL history.
- Aaron Rodgers, Packers, was 23 for 36 for 291 yards with three TD passes in Green Bay's 21-13 win over Chicago. The Packers clinched the NFC North title for the second consecutive season with the victory. Rodgers, who has 32 touchdown passes this season, joined Dan Marino and Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks in NFL history with three seasons with at least 30 touchdown passes before age 30.
- Matt Ryan, Falcons, finished 23 for 28 for 270 yards with three TD passes in Atlanta's 34-0 win over the New York Giants.
- Adrian Peterson, Vikings, had 24 carries for a season-best 212 yards, including an 82-yard TD in Minnesota's 36-22 win over St. Louis. Peterson has a career-best 1,812 yards rushing, leaving him 294 shy of breaking the NFL mark of 2,105 set by Eric Dickerson of the Los Angeles Rams in 1984.
- Arian Foster, Texans, finished with 27 carries for 165 yards in Houston's 29-17 victory over Indianapolis. He has 1,313 yards rushing, giving him his third straight year with at least 1,200.
- Knowshon Moreno, Broncos, had 22 carries for 118 yards and a touchdown in Denver's 34-17 win over Baltimore.
- Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson, Seahawks. Lynch had 10 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown and Wilson had nine carries for 92 yards and three touchdowns rushing in Seattle's 50-17 win over Buffalo. Wilson is the first player in NFL history to have three touchdowns rushing and a passing touchdown in the first half of a game.
- Darren McFadden, Raiders, had 30 carries for 110 yards in Oakland's 15-0 win over Kansas City.
- Reggie Bush, Dolphins, had 21 carries for 104 yards in Miami's 24-3 win over Jacksonville.
- Beanie Wells, Cardinals, had 17 carries for 67 yards and three touchdowns in Arizona's 38-10 win over Detroit.
- Andre Johnson, Texans, had 11 catches for 151 yards and a touchdown in Houston's 29-17 win overIndianapolis.
- Eric Decker, Broncos, finished with eight catches for 133 yards and a touchdown in Denver's 34-17 win over Baltimore.
- Randall Cobb and James Jones, Packers. Cobb had six catches for 115 yards and Jones had five catches for 60 yards and three touchdowns in Green Bay's 21-13 win over Chicago.
- Calvin Johnson, Lions, had 10 catches for 121 yards in Detroit's 38-10 loss to Arizona. Johnson became the first player in NFL history with consecutive 1,600-yard receiving seasons and tied an NFL record with his seventh straight 100-yard receiving game. Johnson has recorded at least 100 yards receiving in seven consecutive games, tied with Charley Hennigan (1961) and Hall of Famer Michael Irvin (1995) for the longest streak in NFL history.
- Dennis Pitta, Ravens, had seven catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns in Baltimore's 34-17 loss to Denver.
- Blair Walsh, Vikings, was 5 for 5 on field goals in Minnesota's 36-22 win over St. Louis.
- Shayne Graham and Bryan Braman, Texans. Graham was 5 for 6 on field goals and Braman returned a blocked punt 8 yards for touchdown in Houston's 29-17 victory over Indianapolis.
- Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders, was 5 for 6 on field goals in Oakland's 15-0 win over Kansas City.
- Greg Toler and Rashad Johnson, Cardinals. Toler returned an interception 102 yards for a touchdown and Johnson returned an interception 53 yards for a touchdown in Arizona's 38-10 victory over Detroit.
- J.J. Watt, Texans, had three sacks in Houston's 29-17 victory over Indianapolis. He finished with 10 tackles. He also forced a fumble for the third straight game.
- Chris Harris, Broncos, returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown in Denver's 34-17 win over Baltimore. It was the longest regular-season interception return in Broncos history.
- Earl Thomas, Seahawks, returned an interception 57 yards for a touchdown in Seattle's 50-17 win over Buffalo.
- Everson Griffen, Vikings, returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown in Minnesota's 36-22 win over St. Louis.
Two teams clinched division titles Sunday. The Green Bay Packers, who defeated Chicago 21-13, won the NFC North. The Houston Texans, who defeated Indianapolis 29-17, clinched the AFC South. ... The Baltimore Ravens also secured a playoff berth when the Steelers lost in overtime to Dallas.
The Seahawks became the NFL's third team to score 50 points in consecutive weeks, joining the Los Angeles Rams and New York Giants, who both did it in 1950, according to STATS. ... The Rams' Steven Jackson became the 15th player to rush for 10,000 yards. Teammate Sam Bradford has been sacked in 30 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL. ... Randall Cobb had 150 all-purpose yards, leaving him 10 shy of Ahman Green's single-season Packers record (2,250 in 2003). ... The Giants' Eli Manning finished 13 of 25 for 161 yards, leaving him with a dismal 38.9 rating _ his worst since a Dec. 23, 2007, win at Buffalo. ... The Giants, Bucs and Chiefs were each shut out on Sunday. The previous time there were three shutouts on the same day in the NFL was Dec. 28, 2008, according to STATS. The last time the Raiders recorded a shutout came in the 2002 regular season finale when they beat Kansas City 24-0. That was also the only other time they shut out the Chiefs in the long rivalry. The Saints had their first shutout since a 12-0 win in the 1995 season finale against the Jets in New York. ... Denver quarterback Peyton Manning had 204 yards passing and a touchdown in the Broncos' 34-17 win at Baltimore. Manning, who has 4,016 yards passing this season, extended his NFL record by getting his 12th career 4,000-yard season. Manning, in his first season with Denver, is the fifth player in NFL history to pass for 4,000 yards with two different teams. He joins Drew Bledsoe, Brett Favre, Hall of Famer Warren Moon and Kurt Warner. The Chargers clinched their first losing season since 2003.
New England, which had won seven in a row, trailed 31-3 at one point and lost for the first time at home in December in 21 games, falling 41-34 on Sunday night. The Patriots also had won 21 in a row in the second half of the schedule before San Francisco somehow regrouped late in a game it seemingly had clinched long before. ... The Broncos have won nine in a row. ... The Redskins have won five in a row. ... The Cowboys have won five of six. ... The Lions have lost six in a row. ... The Bears have lost five of six, putting their playoff hopes in jeopardy. ... San Diego lost for the eighth time in 10 games, and dropped its third straight home game. Carolina won consecutive games for the first time since last December. ... The Bills were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention for a 13th season _ the NFL's longest active drought. ... The Chiefs have lost 10 of 11 games and are tied for the second most losses in franchise history behind a 2-14 mark in 2008.
San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews broke his left collarbone in the second quarter of San Diego's 31-7 loss to Carolina. The injury-prone Mathews broke his right collarbone in the exhibition opener and missed the first two weeks of the regular season. ... Redskins right tackle Tyler Polumbus suffered a concussion, but coach Mike Shanahan had no updates on linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (shoulder) or offensive lineman Will Montgomery (knee). ... Baltimore wide receiver Torrey Smith left the Ravens' 34-17 loss to Denver with a concussion after hitting his head while attempting to make a leaping catch near the sideline in the third quarter. Ravens backup running back Bernard Pierce also left with a concussion. ... Minnesota defensive end Brian Robison sprained the AC joint in a shoulder during the first quarter of the Vikings' 36-22 win at St. Louis.
"We're a 9-5 football team and we feel like we're 0-14 right now." - Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco after Baltimore dropped its third straight in a 34-17 loss to Denver.
"As a player, I am embarrassed for our city." - Ravens safety Ed Reed after Sunday's loss.
THAT'S IT! SEE YOU IN THE CAGE AT 5
(With files from the Assocated Press)