Sunday, June 23, 2024

Starting corners Dandridge and McGhee on the shelf for start of season

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Sherrod Baltimore is back in black.

The popular 31-year-old defensive back — who was the Ottawa Redblacks rookie of year in 2017 but not re-signed over the last off-season — has been added to the team’s practice roster and could be activated for Thursday’s season opener at TD Place against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Prompting the call to Baltimore were injuries that have left the Redblacks without starting corners Bradin Dandridge (knee) and Alijah McGhee (foot), both of whom are on the six-game IR list before Ottawa’s season has even started.

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Also on the injury report released by the Redblacks this week is safety Justin Howell (calf).

More help for the secondary is on the way.

“We’re lucky that we have a player of Sherrod’s quality right here in our backyard,” head coach Bob Dyce said after Monday’s practice about Baltimore, a product of Washington, Maryland who has made Ottawa his full-time home. “It was just a really good fit. Sherrod’s been a good player in his time here and has stayed in shape, looking for an opportunity like this.”

Judging by practice, Money Hunter and Deandre Lamont are lined as the corners, with Bennett Williams and Baltimore rotating in.

The first team halfbacks are Damon Webb and Tobias Harris, with Alonzo Addae the starting safety.

But things could change by Thursday.

Dyce isn’t dwelling at all on the bad luck the Redblacks have had with injuries before the season has started for his team. The Redblacks lost 1,000-yard rusher Devonte Williams, possibly for the season, when he suffered an Achillies injury while training over the winter.

“I just I look at it as an exciting opportunity for some of our other players who are going to get a chance to play possibly,” said Dyce. “Football injuries are part of the business so it doesn’t really cross my mind at all at all. I’m excited with all the guys that do who are going to be playing here on Thursday night.”

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Over Baltimore’s six seasons in Ottawa he had 154 total tackles, four interceptions and one forced fumble.

Last season, he suited up for 10 games with the Redblacks, recording 18 tackles and a pair of picks.

To make room on the roster for Baltimore, the Redblacks released American DB/LB Adrian Frye.

“God is good,’ he said when asked how it felt to be back with the Redblacks. “Feels great. Happy to be here. Blessed for another opportunity.”

Baltimore, who held a youth football camp at TD Place on April 28 for players from ages 6-18, has kept in shape with a trainer while also starting his own business — Clean Dream Services.

He admitted the thought that his football career might be over did cross his mind.

“I’d be a liar if I told you I didn’t think that,” he said. “I pray a lot, read the Bible and stuff like that, so I knew God would set what it is in front of me, just let it happen.

“Of course, the thought (that his football career was over) is in your head. If that was the case,  I got a cleaning company and I just would have done whatever. But I was just training everyday life. As long as my head was in to football … you can’t be halfway in and halfway out on football. You got to train and be ready. That’s what I was doing. Just trying to stay ready.”

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At 5-foot-10, 177-pounds, size is certainly not an asset for Baltimore.

But his “mental toughness” is, according to Dyce.

“I don’t think you’re going to meet a better person who has a more positive outlook on things and a strong belief in himself,” said Dyce. “I don’t think (the fact he wasn’t re-signed) has anything to do with his stature or anything like that. Sometimes it’s a fit, and sometimes it’s different things. But Sherrod’s mental toughness, which is something we always talk about that we need … he does a great job with that.

“He’s a great player. You know, I go back and look at the film from last year and he did some good things for us. So we consider ourselves lucky to have the opportunity to bring him back here.”

Starting the season without Dandridge and McGhee is a tough blow for the Redblacks.

Dandridge led the team with five interceptions last season and McGhee is a 6-foot-2, 195-pounder who showed all-star potential when he joined the team last season and made six tackles in two games.

Dyce said McGhee has a “little fracture in this foot, and I think things are progressing well, but the human body’s has got to take its time to heal.”

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“Our job as coaches is to make sure he stays on that (positive) trajectory mentally,” added Dyce. “That he continues to go to all those meetings, makes sure he stays on point to any changes that’s happening with the defence.

“Personally, I feel for him as a kid. He’s on an upward swing. But everyone’s path isn’t linear, right? And there’s going to be peaks and valleys. So this is a little a little a little bit valley for him, but I know he’s going to come back even stronger. And again, we’re lucky to have someone like Sherrod here, and Bennett Williams here and we’ll look at some other people.

“At the end of the day, one man’s challenge is another man’s opportunity.”

dbrennan@postmedia.com

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