JONES: Veteran kicker begs his penalty-prone Eskimos teammates to be more disciplined

Sean Whyte believes the plague of penalties will not going away until Eskimos players themselves commit to make it go away.

Edmonton Eskimos kicker Sean Whyte boots a field goal on the B.C. Lions during CFL action at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on Oct. 12, 2019. Ian Kucerak / Postmedia

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The kicker that came out and declared the Edmonton Eskimos had cancer in their dressing room last season has decided to emerge to urge his teammates to begin to finally find the cure for their current condition.

Not for cancer. But for the disease that has been killing them through their seriously affected and infected season.

“I just think we have a lot of discipline issues on the field and we’re paying the price for it. I’m not going to call somebody out, but I think discipline should be handled in house. Those things should be done. And I do think there are people who are being allowed to get away with it.”

Back at training camp, Sean Whyte made headlines. To him, what he said became misrepresented, but not to the point he’s going to shy away and not say what is past time for somebody to stand up and say in the interest of finally fixing what’s broken.

“There were a couple of guys that were a cancer problem,” he said of last year’s 9-9 miss-the-playoffs team. “It had a trickle-down effect. They acted a certain way and the rookies followed suit. It wasn’t a Mike Reilly or anybody like that. I love Mike Reilly. I think he’s a great leader. It involved a couple of other guys who left.”

There’s no free-agent frenzy to cure the current condition before the playoffs where it became official Friday with Saskatchewan’s win in Vancouver that Edmonton will become the league’s 10th crossover club. And Whyte believes it’s not going away until the players themselves commit to make it go away.

And again, it’s not the same thing that he labelled a cancer last year.

“This team doesn’t have anything like that. We’re just young. We have to stick together, learn to win together with everyone knowing his role. We brought in a lot of new talent this year. We made a lot of changes. You can see how good we can be. I believe it can easily be put together by the next game. But if we want to beat a team like a Montreal or Hamilton, we have to come to grips with the thing that’s been killing us.”

Whyte knows he’s in danger of becoming labelled as the ‘controversial kicker- with this following his cancer comments, but it has to be said. He’s obviously hoping he can kick them in the can and all the way into the Grey Cup game, a feat never before accomplished by nine previous Western teams that qualified through the back door.

He doesn’t think a cancer has returned to the room.

“I just feel like we’ve made bad decisions and we just keep making them. And those decisions aren’t being made during the run of play but after the whistle,” he said of the condition that has to be cured.

“They’re the penalties we keep taking that could easily be avoided. And I think a lot of that is happening just because of inexperience. I think these guys have to learn that you don’t play as an individual, you play as a team and the team is bigger than you.”

It’s a bit of a fine line Whyte is choosing to walk here when you have a head coach with his own major discipline issues, which were very visible on the sidelines in the last game again, a GM who refuses to simply outlaw trash talk in the name of Hugh Campbell, and an organization that refuses to make an example of after-the-whistle repeat offenders like Money Hunter and Vontae Diggs. (All opinions mine, not Whyte’s.)

But the Eskimos took 14 penalties for 170 yards in their last game at home against the B.C. Lions. They have taken 182 penalties, 22 more than the next closest team. Montreal and Hamilton have taken only 133 each, The Eskimos have 1,523 yards in penalties, more than the length of two football fields than the next worst offender and with both the Als and Tiger-Cats in the 1,100-yard range.

“I think it is all learning experience. I’ve seen it on other teams. And hopefully, as these players grow up, they have to learn that you have to play together and that the team is a whole lot more important than you as an individual.

“I’ve been preaching this all along. If we want to beat Montreal and Hamilton in the playoffs, we have to be more disciplined. The only thing that’s killing us is discipline issues and all the penalties that we take.”

Give Whyte credit for his courage. Somebody has to do it to give this team a chance to come together and find the cure to proceed to the playoffs and find success.

tjones@postmedia.com

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