Coach makes his point
By Rob Vanstone, The Leader-Post
June 5, 2012
Even during training camp, the Saskatchewan Roughriders are facing adversity on the road.
A traffic-induced delay resulted in middle linebacker Shomari Williams being late for a meeting on the weekend. Head coach Corey Chamblin responded by demoting Williams to second on the CFL team's depth chart, behind veteran Mike McCullough and ahead of rookie Sam Hurl.
"It's the result of what I did,'' Williams said following Monday morning's practice at the University of Regina. "You've got to live with what your punishment is and take it like a man.''
Williams is also taking it to heart.
"Today, I came in an hour early, just to make sure,'' he said with a smile. "I think with everybody it's kind of the same thing. If you want to be on the team and be a part of it, you might as well be early rather than be late or trying to push it to be just on time. I think more people are starting to get that realization that that type of behaviour is not tolerated.
"People are going to come early. People are going to be on time. Darian (Durant) is here bright and early every day. If I want to be a starter and a leader on the team like that, I have to follow that same example.''
By following an unexpectedly indirect path to the U of R, Williams ended up being the first Roughrider to test the team's rookie head coach. The demotion was largely the result of bad luck - not bad intentions.
"They closed the road on Broad Street,'' Williams explained. "I couldn't figure out how to get here, so I had to go on the Ring Road. It wasn't anything big. I was a couple of minutes late. I knew what was going to happen when I came in late, so I was prepared for whatever he said.
"It's a fair punishment for what I did. I have to be a leader on this team if I'm going to be a starter. By me coming late, that's not showing trust in the coaches. I'll take it for what it is and just earn his trust back and try to keep working.''
Williams' contrition and resolve evoke reminders of Jordan Weal, whose introduction to another rookie head coach - the Regina Pats' Pat Conacher - was hardly auspicious last September.
Shortly after being sent back to the Pats by the Los Angeles Kings, Weal inadvertently missed a meeting on the morning of the WHL team's regular-season opener against the visiting Swift Current Broncos. Conacher responded by making Weal a healthy scratch for Game 1, which the Pats won 5-1.
Conacher's bold move resonated with the players, and especially with Weal. Conacher contributed mightily to the Pats' resurgence and was deservedly decorated with Eastern Conference coach-of-the-year honours. Along the way, Weal enjoyed a banner season.
With this precedent in mind, perhaps Williams' late arrival for a team meeting is a good omen for the Roughriders - not to mention a blessing for Chamblin, who seized the opportunity to establish the ground rules from Day 1.
"You don't want to discipline anyone, but I don't think there's anything on this Earth that you can actually do wrong and not be penalized for it,'' Chamblin said. "That's just one of those life lessons. On and off the field, if we're not doing what we need to do, then demotions happen.
"A lot of different things happen when you're not practising or you're not acting like a champion. These guys told me they want to be champions, so I've got to hold them to that standard. I think that's what Shomari knows.''
In this instance, both parties handled the situation commendably. Chamblin, a la Conacher, has wiped the slate clean after addressing an issue arising from attendance at a team meeting. Williams, like Weal, has resolved to avoid any chance of a recurrence.
"Shomari's just playing ball right now,'' Chamblin said. "He has been positive about it. I still joke with him. He's still one of my kids. I'm still trying to raise Shomari in the right way so he can be a leader on this team.
"He's a very athletic guy. He's doing the right things on the field. We've just got to make sure that off the field he understands what it means to be a leader.''
Having absorbed the message, Williams vows to atone for the tardiness that was partially the result of circumstances beyond his control. If such a scenario had to unfold, the timing could hardly have been better for all concerned.
If you're going to be late, it might as well be early.
© Copyright (c) The Regina Leader-Post