Last seen trying to make a joke about a head injury that was no laughing matter, Calgary Stampeders quarterback Drew Tate was trying to be all business Wednesday. Not exactly 'yes sir, no ma'am' serious, but serious enough for someone with his laid-back personality, who the Stamps need to be at his best, if they plan to defeat the B.C. Lions in the CFL's Western Conference final and qualify for the 100th Grey Cup.
Tate took a helmet to the head from the Saskatchewan Roughriders' Tearrius George in the Western semi-final and suggested he couldn't remember a thing that happened in the first half. Not good. But Tate stayed at the controls and in the fourth quarter, heaved an 11th-hour bomb to Romby Bryant that allowed the Stamps to pull out a 36-30 victory Sunday.
So on Wednesday, or two days after issuing a statement through the Stamps to clarify his "had my bell rung" remarks, Tate was available to speak in the flesh and insisted he was fine all along.
"It was just a joke," said Tate. "I can't help how you all take it. Sorry. I mean, I understand it. But if that was a concussion, then I've got about 30 of those because I've been dinged a lot since I've been playing and never had another problem with it before. Goes away, comes back, just fine.
"I could understand if there was an issue. If I didn't know what I was doing, then that's an issue. I knew what I was doing. That's why I feel, I was comfortable with what I was doing - just moving on, next play, whatever."
Minutes earlier and only a few feet away, slotback Nik Lewis had explained how a tasteless tweet he'd sent out involving O.J. and his gloves was just him trying to be funny. Tate's contention was, when he told TSN he couldn't remember the first half of the Saskatchewan game that was own unique brand of humor at work too.
With all these comedians in tow, maybe Second City can get naming rights to McMahon Stadium – or open a little comedy store in the Red-and-White club.
Tate didn't practice Wednesday, but according to coach John Hufnagel, it was because he'd bruised his forearm against Saskatchewan. X-rays taken Tuesday came back negative, but Tate still reported "soreness" so Hufnagel didn't want him throwing passes. Hufnagel said Tate had cleared all of the CFL's mandatory concussion protocols and "should be back on the field tomorrow. That's my plan anyway. That's how I'm going to bed."
For his part, Tate wanted to shift the conversation away from his head to discuss the challenge posed by the Lions and the CFL's No. 1 defence.
"They're the best team in the league," said Tate. "They're the champs. They're going to be all excited, after the last time we had them here (a lopsided 41-21 Calgary victory in a meaningless game). It's going to be a dogfight. Our margin for error now is even slimmer and we've got to be on our game. Everyone on the team, the 42, is going to have to be ready to go."
Tate was designated the team's No. 1 quarterback in the off-season, ahead of Henry Burris, who was subsequently traded to the Hamilton Tiger Cats. However, he dislocated his shoulder back on July 7 and gave way mostly to Kevin Glenn this year. Even after returning to the line-up, the two QBs rotated, meaning that Sunday's win over Saskatchewan was, according to Tate, the first time he'd played a game, from start to finish, in a long time.
"I want to have a higher completion percentage and see the field better," said Tate, "but that's the first full 60-minute game I've played since the Winnipeg game last year at home, so I'm a little rusty. I'm trying. Sorry, if I'm not where y'all want me to be, but I'm getting there."
Tate said that with a charming, southern good-ole-boy accent, which is pertinent because, in the spoken word, it came off as disarming, not whiney, which is how it could come to be read. It's an interesting question – how sometimes, intonation is lost when the words appear on the page.
Tate went on to say, he'll need to do everything better this weekend against the Lions, from "my vision to my execution to the sharpness, it all needs to be stepped up a level. A lot of the balls that I threw up, you can't do that against B.C. because they have better ball-skill guys on the back end.
"So we have to find ways to go out there and play catch and move the chains."