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MONTREAL - Through five weeks of the regular season, the Montreal Alouettes are the most penalized team in the Canadian Football League. They've been flagged 52 times.
It has become an alarming statistic, and when the Als are penalized for more than 100 yards, as they were in their last two games, they generally lose. Montreal was penalized for more than 100 yards earlier last month at Saskatchewan, but won.
â€śWhen we clean up our football, we're going to be a much better team,â€ť Alouettes coach Marc Trestman said Monday, before the team convened for meetings and film review at Olympic Stadium. â€śWe have to become a lesser-penalized team. When we do, we'll score more points.â€ť
What should have Trestman and his assistant coaches concerned is the fact reducing penalties became their top priority as a staff during the off-season, and becoming a more-disciplined team was the top objective at training camp.
That would seem to indicate the message isn't sinking in. Either the players are stubborn or selfish, or have stopped listening to Trestman in this, his fourth season with the Als.
â€śIt (getting his point across) does cross your mind. You continue to try to evolve in your relationships,â€ť Trestman said. â€śThe coaches are doing a great job of sending the message - one that's simple and never changes. You have to be disciplined.
â€śI have confidence the guys believe in what we're doing.â€ť
The Als lost their composure July 24 against the Roughriders, and that was one of the mantras Trestman repeated last week. Still, Montreal went out against the Tiger-Cats and took 14 penalties for 121 yards.
Trestman said he believes the team's composure actually improved last week. He said there were plenty of subjective calls, and Trestman said the team might have got away with one or two.
â€śPenalties are called. At times, you can't understand why they were called,â€ť Trestman said. â€śOther times, there should have been penalties against us and they weren't called. Officiating isn't the issue. The issue is being able to control our emotions and control our actions in the chaos of a game.â€ť
Against Hamilton alone, Dwight Anderson, Diamond Ferri and Anwar Stewart committed unnecessary roughness infractions. Ramon Guzman was nailed for a facemask, while Jermaine McElveen's illegal block nullified a potential fumble recovery.
While Anderson and Ferri are repeat offenders, Trestman denied he's losing patience with the duo. If anything, Anderson should have a longer rope at his disposal, since he's new to the team, having signed as a free agent from Calgary last February.
It would seem taking penalties is a recurring theme with the Als. Last season, they took 195 penalties - one fewer than the league-leading B.C. Lions. The Als also won their second consecutive Grey Cup, and when a team wins, many potential issues are more easily masked.
â€śThings have come up in the past and we've worked through them,â€ť Trestman said. â€śWe had the same issues last year and worked through them. We had a lot of disciplinary issues. We were able to overcome it more because the league wasn't as strong. The penalties now are becoming more obvious and apparent.â€ť
The players know they're crossing the line far too often.
â€śThe last two games it hurt us and we lost games,â€ť Stewart said. â€śI hope it got noticed, because it's got to stop. We're killing ourselves and shooting ourselves. We shouldn't have to flex our muscles. We know we're men.â€ť