REGINA, Saskatchewan -- Chris Wright consistently has let his actions speak loudly this year for the Baltimore Stallions.
One of the reasons Baltimore has won 17 of 20 games and is headed to tomorrow's Grey Cup is the outstanding play of its special teams. Great field position has taken pressure off Baltimore's offense, thanks largely to Wright's kick-returning ability.
All year, Wright has responded humbly to praise from coaches, teammates and reporters. But he had to speak up after he was denied Rookie of the Year honors at the CFL awards banquet Thursday night. Wright lost to Edmonton receiver Shalon Baker, who finished ninth in the league in receiving with 79 catches good for 1,156 yards and five touchdowns.
Great numbers, no doubt. But stacked up against Wright's?
All Wright did was break the CFL record for return yardage (2,256) set by Gizmo Williams, a legend in this league. Even Wright could not resist a parting shot to the league's media voters, particularly those north of the border.
"If you put his [Baker's] stats and my stats side by side, it's obvious who should be the winner," Wright said. "I can't control the Canadian voters' decisions. All I can control is what I do on the field. I'm proud because my teammates are proud of me. We can't let one award take away our enthusiasm for winning the Grey Cup. I'm not going to let them get me down."
Early to bed
One of Baltimore coach Don Matthews' trademarks is his willingness to let his players be themselves. Offensive linemen have been known to wrestle on the sidelines at practice and rush end Elfrid Payton gets his space as the team's cut-up.
Matthews normally isn't a believer in curfews -- until this week. Matthews has imposed an 11 p.m. restriction on the Stallions, who are supposed to be in the team hotel at that time.
"I just don't want them [members of the Stallions and Stampeders] running into each other in the city," Matthews said. Last night, they got back after the awards dinner, and because they were still hungry, we extended the curfew until 1 a.m.
"This is six days out of our life to try to create a lifetime of memories. That's what we're trying to create, and the players understand that. It's one football game to get this done."
Said cornerback Irv Smith about the curfew: "It is a big change, especially with Don. He knows how badly we want this game. And the curfew probably only affects about 10 percent of the team. In a way, it's brought the team closer."
Tale of the tape
The players left an amusing message behind as they prepared to leave Baltimore on Monday. Name tags were removed from over each player's locker, to be transported to Regina. In a stunt that was orchestrated by running back Mike Pringle, names of current Cleveland Browns were taped over each home locker at Memorial Stadium.
"One of the guys was saying that the Browns would be coming soon, and there was a Cleveland roster in the paper that day, so we did it," Pringle said.
Pringle also made sure to leave his name behind.
"I was clowning on my teammates," said Pringle, who has made no secret of his desire to get another shot to make the NFL.