TROIS-RIVIÈRES, Que. — Montreal Alouettes wide receiver Tyson Philpot did not train with his teammates on Wednesday and hasn't done so since May 26.
Whether or not his status for the start of the CFL season is in question is not clear. Philpot was not on the injured list as of Wednesday afternoon and head coach Jason Maas said he won't speak about injuries to his players.
"If you ever ask me a question about an injury to a player I’ll never ever answer you straight, so if you wanna keep asking me I’ll never answer it," Maas said when asked about an injury to offensive lineman Landon Rice. "I’m not a big believer in telling anybody about our players' injury, nothing. If you wanna talk about their on-field performance, how they are, all that stuff, I’ll always tell you guys. But when it comes down to injuries, I’m not going to tell you.
"We’ll disclose it when we need to disclose anything because you have to do that. But as far as me telling you guys, you’ll never get it from me. I guarantee that."
Philpot, however, was not wearing any equipment or cleats on Wednesday and was limited to lengthy exercises primarily targeting his hamstring muscles on the sidelines. Having not trained all week so far, he also won't play in Montreal’s final pre-season game at home on Friday against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Should he miss time, the Canadian receiver’s absence would be felt. Philpot, a ninth-overall pick in 2022, caught 39 passes for 459 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie last season, playing in all 18 Alouettes games. He was also used in kick returns and ran for 511 yards over 24 attempts.
The 22-year-old from Delta, B.C., was named a finalist for the CFL's Most Outstanding Rookie Award.
Without Philpot, the starting receiving unit on Wednesday consisted of newcomers Greg Ellingson and Austin Mack, as well as Cole Spieker and Canadians Kaion Julien-Grant and Hergy Mayala.
Of the group, Mayala is benefiting the most so far. Mayala signed a new contract with the team just a few days before the start of training camp after playing all 18 games for the team last year.
"I only received the playbook a week before camp, and I had to work hard to learn it," said Mayala. "I want to be a guy who can be inserted at any position and be ready to play. … I'm ready to do whatever I'm asked to do at a very high level."
"Hergy is a starter in my mind no matter what," said receivers coach Mike Lionello. "When we signed him back, two or three weeks before camp, I was elated because having him, the depth he brought us, that we'd have another starter potentially not on the field, he can come in at any time and play amazing snaps for us. Very happy."
"(Learning the playbook) was a bit of a learning curve early-on, but he's a brilliant young man, he'll figure it out."
In 18 games, he caught 33 passes for 409 yards and two touchdowns — similar numbers to Philpot. Like Philpot, Mayala was also a first-round pick, going eighth overall to the Calgary Stampeders in 2019.
Mayala caught 67 passes for 846 yards and five touchdowns — all in his first of two seasons — for the Stampeders.
According to Lionello, the 27-year-old had a very good camp, and his versatility would allow the team to use him at all five receiver positions if needed.
As a Canadian player like Philpot, his inclusion in the starting lineup would not disrupt the Alouettes' ratio.
Lionello still has about twenty receivers in camp, and he admitted that difficult decisions will have to be made by Saturday at 10 p.m. ET, the deadline to submit the 45-player roster and the 18-member practice roster.
It's a good problem for the coach to have, as he prefers to have a large pool of players to make his choices.
"It's worth it. We needed to find some playmakers and we found that," said Lionello. "Kudos to the scouting staff for bringing these guys in."
As for who stays, neither Maas nor Lionello could say.
"I don't know if it's clear (what the wide receivers picture will look like), but the guys who have been able to practise all the time we have an idea," said Mass. "The second game coming up is going to be important for all of them."
"I don't know exactly (how many receivers we're going to keep) but if you make plays, we're not going to let you go."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2023.
Frédéric Daigle, The Canadian Press