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Despite lacking an owner, it's business as usual for the Alouettes

Alouettes quarterback Matthew Shiltz has been hampered by injuries in the past, but said he's better prepared this time around after adding 12 pounds of muscle in the off-season.
Alouettes quarterback Matthew Shiltz has been hampered by injuries in the past, but said he's better prepared this time around after adding 12 pounds of muscle in the off-season.

‘We have a mandate to make certain we operate this franchise as efficiently as we can regardless of the situation,’ GM Kavis Reed.

The Alouettes don’t have an owner, but general manager Kavis Reed said it’s business as usual for the team as it prepares for the coming CFL season.

“It’s exactly the same as it has been for the last few months (since) this all started,” Reed said after the Alouettes practised at Molson Stadium Monday. “We have a mandate to make certain we operate this franchise as efficiently as we can regardless of the situation with the ownership.”

Robert Wetenhall, the American businessman who rescued the franchise in 1997, and his son Andrew have been trying to sell the franchise for more than a year. On Friday, they handed it over to the CFL, which is now tasked with finding a new owner. The announcement Friday was a formality because the league has been closely monitoring the team’s management for several months.

In recent months, there have been at least three groups that kicked the tires. Montreal businessman Clifford Starke expressed interested with help from former Alouettes president Larry Smith and his son Brad. Vince Guzzo, who has interests in movie theatres and construction, was interested. And so was a group of investors headed by former Alouette Éric Lapointe .

The Wetenhalls’ decision to cut their losses is an indication that none of the prospective buyers is close to a deal.

Reed said he met with the players on the weekend and assured them the situation wasn’t dire and the league was working closely to resolve the current difficulties.

While the front-office drama is playing out, head coach Mike Sherman’s only concern is Thursday’s pre-season game against the Ottawa Redblacks at Molson Stadium. It’s his last chance to evaluate players under game conditions before he has to trim his roster to 45 bodies by 10 a.m. Saturday.

Based on the 45-20 loss to the Argonauts last week in Toronto, the biggest concern should be the defence. One simple explanation for the one-sided loss — Toronto led 27-0 early in the second quarter _  may be the choice of personnel. Only three of the 12 projected starters on defence played in Toronto and the talent level should be higher on Thursday.

One welcome addition to the defence will be veteran defensive-end John Bowman . He was involved in the negotiations for the new collective bargaining agreement between the players and the league and was given some time off at the start of camp. He returned to the field this weekend.

“We’ll use him every second of every day,” Sherman said. “He’s a captain, he’s in charge of our team from a players’ standpoint. I’ve been very fortunate in my career to be around some very good leaders and John Bowman is right there at the top. I’ve never been around a leader quite like him. He sees the big picture. It’s not just about him, it’s about the team, the organization, what’s best for everybody. I’ve never seen someone as unselfish as John.”

On the other side of the ball, there’s an ongoing battle for the starting quarterback job. Sherman used all four of his import hopefuls in the loss to Toronto and he expects to use a similar approach Thursday, but said he’ll take a longer look if one of the candidates displays a hot hand.

“I thought the decision-making was pretty good. We need to get rid of the ball a little quicker,” Sherman said when asked to assess last week’s outing. “Sometimes they were a little too aggressive and tried to force plays. They just needed to relax a little bit. They were a little tight.”

Matthew Shiltz, who has been used sparingly in his first two seasons in Montreal, provided the offensive highlight for the Als when he ran 32 yards for a touchdown. He also completed three of his five passes. He has been hampered by injuries in the past, but he said he’s better prepared for this season after adding 12 pounds of muscle in the off-season.

Protecting the quarterbacks is another area of concern and Sherman said he’s still juggling bodies on the offensive line. Kristian Matte has been moved back to centre, while tackles Tyler Johnstone and Tony Washington have returned to practice after missing time with injuries.

“I wish we had the exact people who were going to play the entire season, but we’re not in that position,” Sherman said. “I think we’re a lot closer. Some of that was predicated on the fact we had a couple of injuries, but we’re trying to sort it out. The ratio (between Canadian players and imports) is also an issue, more so than any other position.”

Johnstone, who won the Outland Trophy as the top offensive lineman in U.S. college football while playing at Oregon, suffered a knee injury in his CFL debut last July. If he’s healthy, he’ll make Sherman’s job easier because he’s a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen and he’s classified as a national player. His presence would allow the Als to use four Canadians on the line along with Washington and that would free up an import spot at another position.

phickey@postmedia.com

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