MONTREAL – It’s like getting a new boss at work, Damon Duval rationalized.
Problem is, the Montreal Alouettes’ kicker has seen his superior change twice in the matter of months.
First, Scott Squires resigned as Montreal’s special teams co-ordinator for family reasons, replaced by Richard Kent, who joined the Als from Toronto, where he was the Argonauts’ secondary coach in 2009.
But Kent and Als head coach Marc Trestman had what has been described as a mutual parting of ways Monday night – the diplomatic response when someone gets fired.
A committee of assistant coaches will now run the Als’ special teams; the point man being Andy Bischoff, who adds one more hat to an already full dossier which includes running backs coach, tight ends coach, assistant offensive line coach and the position that probably keeps him busiest – assistant to the head coach. Carson Walch, a guest coach at training camp, has also been hired for the remainder of the Canadian Football League season to help run the special teams.
Walch rejoined the team Thursday and comes to the organization from Winona State, where he was the assistant head coach, co offensive co-ordinator, wide receivers coach and recruiting co-ordinator.
Special teams are an integral part of the three-down game and can’t be overlooked. When he coached the Als from 2002-06, the legendary Don Matthews devoted an inordinate amount of practice time to special teams; indeed, it was one of the rare times he got out of his golf cart and actually did some hands-on mentoring.
“It has definitely been a change,” Duval said of the recent whirlwind of events. “For me, it doesn’t matter. I just show up and do my job.”
If only it were that simple. Not only are there mechanics that go into kicking field goals – much like a golf swing, its perfection can be fleeting – there’s punting, kickoffs, onside kicks and converts that require practice. Under Squires and Kent, Duval had his own personal coach by his side. How things will work under Bischoff and Walch remain to be determined, but Duval was alone for great stretches of practice this week.
Duval made three of five field goals in last Saturday’s exhibition, against Toronto, missing from 41 and 48 yards. The Als open the regular season July 1, at Saskatchewan.
“Andy’s done a great job of bringing us together and helping us get better,” Duval said. “The start of the season’s less than a week away. We have to be prepared. And we will be.
“The good thing is Andy has been here. He knows my routine. It should be an easy transition. He knows my ritual. There’s nothing I have to do different. Andy’s detailed and systematic. He knows what I need to do to continue to get better. For me, it never was the coaching, per se. My kicking is my kicking. Nothing has changed.”
Trestman said he and his staff continue to define specific areas – picking a coach to instruct a discipline.
Bischoff, meanwhile, said he’s embracing the new challenge, knowing he won’t be required to sink or swim alone. He’s starting his third season with Montreal.
“We’re all jumping on board and taking ownership for it,” Bischoff said. “We’re in a tough situation and are trying to embrace it. That’s most comforting. We’re not putting a load on anyone.
“I think Duval, like any player, needs someone there to hold him accountable. He seems excited. He wants a place to call home. We’ll make sure we coach him and give him our input. He’s open to it.”
While Trestman provided few details regarding Kent on Tuesday, the word around the team was Kent simply wasn’t qualified and appeared to be in over his head.
Reached Thursday at his off-season home in Charlotte, N.C., Kent was reluctant to say much, but admitted his three-month association with the Als had some pitfalls.
“There were some bumps in the road,” he said. “But . . . the players and staff were great. I felt things were going OK.
“It’s part of the business and I’m not bitter. I’m grateful for the opportunity. They’re a great organization and they have a great head coach. It was a positive experience.”
Kent, 49, said he hopes to continue coaching somewhere in the CFL and will wait to see what develops. He refused to disclose the length of his contract or whether it included a severance package.