After surgery, defensive lineman Ted Laurent visits Ticat teammates ahead of Grey Cup

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats got a boost on the eve of Sunday’s Grey Cup when influential defensive lineman Ted Laurent, ruled out after undergoing an emergency appendectomy, took part in a team meeting.

“That was an emotional lift for our football team that he was sitting there,” said Hamilton coach Orlondo Steinauer. “He couldn’t laugh like he regularly could, but it was important for him to be there. It was just nice to have him there.

“You could just feel the energy lift in the room,” said Lee Autry, who will start in his place.

“The big thing, it was nice to see him healthy and good after being in surgery,” added defensive back Tunde Adeleke. “Playing or not, I don’t think it’s a big thing for us. It’s bigger than football.”

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Laurent, a refrigerator-sized run-stopper, had missed practice Thursday and Friday. The club initially only said he was dealing with a non-COVID illness.

The East Division champions said later Friday that the six-foot-one 299-pounder had undergone a medical procedure for appendicitis, but offered little else on their lineup.

On Saturday it was made official when the Grey Cup rosters were released before Steinauer met the media. Autry, an American, was listed at defensive tackle with fellow rookie Chris Mulumba his backup.

Losing Laurent — a Canadian — forced several moves in order for Hamilton to preserve its import ratio. Canadian defensive back Stavros Katsantonis was the last piece of the puzzle, moving into the starting lineup.

“Obviously having Ted not go is a big blow,” said Steinauer. “There’s more to it than just his production on the field, obviously. That’s a ratio challenge. But that won’t make a difference. We will go a different way with our roster.

“I feel for Teddy, the person. He’s a big part of what helped us get here.”

Autry, a six-foot-two 305-pounder, made his first career CFL start on Aug. 14 at Saskatchewan. In all, the 25-year-old dressed in four regular-season games, including two starts.

“I’m excited, very excited. I’m ready. I’m just ready for the time to come,” said the native of Albemarle, N.C.

Autry spent time on the practice squads of the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders after signing with the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent last year. Autry, who joined Hamilton in June, said Laurent has helped him all season.

“Ted has brought me a long way from when I started here to now,” he said. “Just learning from him, just seeing how he plays and just picking up things that he does, it helps me.”

The Ticats had the best run defence in the league this season, limiting the opposition to 79.6 yards a game. Laurent’s immovable bulk was one of the main reasons why and he was being counted on to help stop Blue Bombers running back Andrew Harris.

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Harris, named the outstanding player and Canadian in the Bombers’ 33-12 win over Hamilton in the 2019 Grey Cup, said he was more concerned about his team than Ticat defensive line roster moves.

“At the end of the day there’s going to be someone there,” he said after practice Saturday on a balmy if windy day at Tim Hortons Field. “We have to block them and move them and make plays against them.”

A four-time divisional all-star and two-time all-CFL selection, Laurent was nominated as the East Division’s Most Outstanding Canadian in 2014.

The big man has been a fixture in a hard-nosed Ticat defensive line that also features Ja’Gared Davis, Dylan Wynn and Julian Howsare.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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