Alouettes to rely on Sutton against Roughriders

As much as every professional athlete wants to play, he’ll claim opportunity shouldn’t come at the expense of another who has been injured.

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Otherwise, he comes across as being selfish, and not a team player.

Tyrell Sutton has always felt a connection to Brandon Whitaker since his arrival in Montreal last season. Two men chasing the same job, which is perhaps why Sutton has felt a symbiotic relationship with the Alouettes’ starting tailback.

And so, it’s with mixed emotions that Sutton has taken his promotion to starter after the Als placed Whitaker on the six-game injured list late Friday afternoon. He broke two bones in his foot last Wednesday during an off-field workout. With five games remaining in the regular season, and the Als in no way guaranteed a playoff berth, Whitaker’s season might, in fact, be over.

“It’s very unfortunate. Anyone can tell you he (Whitaker) is one of my best friends. He’s like a brother of mine,” Sutton said Sunday, during an interview in the team’s Olympic Stadium dressing room. “I didn’t want to do this without him. I still don’t, but the game stops for nobody.

“Nobody wants to be a backup, but you play the role that you have. I’m not saying I was fine with it, but I was fine with it. There’s nothing wrong with Whit. There’s no reason for me to say I should be starting over Whit.”

But beginning Monday afternoon at Molson Stadium (1 p.m., TSN, RDS, TSN Radio-690) against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, that’s the role Sutton has been cast into. And he’ll be backed up by former Pittsburgh Steeler Chris Rainey, although he arrived only this week and had been on the practice roster.

Whitaker was second in the Canadian Football League in rushing yards, behind Calgary’s Jon Cornish, but has a history of injury problems. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament in 2012, and finished last season on the nine-game injured list after dislocating a shoulder and pulling his hamstring.

Sutton started the final three games, along with the East Division semifinal against Hamilton. He exceeded 100 yards in both games against the Tiger-Cats and completed the season with an impressive 6.2-yard average, gaining 342 yards on 55 carries.

“Everybody trusts Sutton. He can run. He can block. He knows the offence,” said offensive-tackle Jeff Perrett. “He’s a physical runner, straight downhill, and he’s not scared of contact. He’s not scared to be a blocker. He’s fast and has the whole package.”

At 5-foot-8 and 213 pounds, Sutton’s two inches shorter, but 13 pounds heavier than Whitaker. Sutton, who spent time in the NFL with Green Bay, Carolina and Seattle, started this season on the six-game injured list, having suffered a hamstring problem at training camp. The Als introduced a two-back system two months ago, at Saskatchewan. Sutton was dressed for Montreal’s last game, at Ottawa, but failed to play a down because of a rib injury.

Sutton, much like Mike Pringle –– who will attend a halftime ceremony Monday during which former quarterback Anthony Calvillo will have his number retired –– will gain his yards running over and through tacklers. He’s an aggressive ball-carrier compared to the elusive and shifty Whitaker.

“I don’t care. You hit me, you’re going to feel some kind of force behind it,” Sutton said. “We’re both quick, fast and very intelligent.”


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