Canadians Tyrone Crawford and Louis-Philippe Ladouceur will both be interested spectators when the NFL playoffs begin this weekend.
Crawford, a defensive lineman from Windsor, Ont., and Ladouceur a 35-year-old Montreal native in his 12th season as Dallas’s long-snapper, helped the Cowboys clinch the top playoff seed in the NFC with a 13-3 record. That secured America’s Team an opening-round bye and home-field advantage for the divisional contest Jan. 15.
Dallas will open the post-season facing either Green Bay, the New York Giants or Detroit. The Lions visit the Seattle Seahawks in one NFC wild-card contest Saturday while the Packers and Giants square off in the other Sunday.
The Atlanta Falcons also have an opening-round bye in the NFC.
In the AFC, the Oakland Raiders face the Houston Texans on Saturday while the Miami Dolphins play the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
The new England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs have opening-round byes.
The Cowboys were a big story this year. Quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott both emerged as bona fide stars as rookies and helped the franchise win 11 straight games during the regular season.
Playing behind a stout Dallas offensive line, Prescott, a 2016 fourth-round selection, finished with a 104.9 passer rating, surpassing Robert Griffin (102.4 in 2012) for the highest single-season mark ever by a rookie quarterback. Elliott, the club’s 2016 first-round pick, ran for a NFL-best 1,631 yards, becoming just fifth rookie since 1970 and first since Edgerrin James (1,553 yards) in ’99 to lead the league in rushing.
“They fit in nicely,” Ladouceur said. “People forget Dak played in the SEC (with Mississippi State) in front of 80, 90, 100,000 people every game while Zeke played at Ohio State, a big school with a big following.
“I think they’re kind of used to that spotlight and what comes with it so coming here was kind of like the same thing. They’ve adjusted, obviously.”
The six-foot-five, 256-pound Ladouceur is in the NFL playoffs for the sixth time with Dallas while this will mark Crawford’s second post-season stint his five-year career. The six-foot-four, 285-pound Crawford had 28 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 14 starts but missed the Cowboys’ regular-season finale versus Philadelphia with shoulder and hamstring injuries.
Crawford resumed practising this week and expects to be ready for the Jan. 15 matchup.
“I think I could use it (bye week), to be honest,” Crawford said with a chuckle. “In my career I haven’t had a bye week this late and it’s definitely a blessing.
“But football means nothing, really, if you don’t win. That’s our main goal, to win and that’s what we plan to do going forward.”
Here’s a look at other Canadians and notable former CFL players with NFL playoff squads:
â€” Christian Covington. The six-foot-two, 305-pound defensive lineman from Vancouver is in his second season with Houston. Covington made five starts and registered 26 tackles and one sack. His father, Grover Covington, was a long-time Hamilton Tiger-Cats defensive end and is a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
â€” Cameron Wake. The veteran defensive end began his pro career with the CFL’s B.C. Lions. He was the league’s top rookie and defensive player in ’07 and named its outstanding defensive player again in ’08. Since joining Miami, Wake has been named to five Pro Bowls and this year had 11.5 sacks.
â€” Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. The six-foot-five, 321-pound native of Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Que., is in his third season with Kansas City and second as the starting right guard. The former McGill star was a 2014 sixth-round draft pick and is continuing his studies to be a doctor while playing football.
â€” Brett Jones. The 25-year-old native of Weyburn, Sask., is a backup centre-guard with the Giants. Jones was the CFL’s top lineman in 2014 with the Calgary Stampeders before heading to New York.
â€” Stefan Charles. The six-foot-five, 320-pound defensive lineman is in his first season with Detroit and is currently on injured reserve. The 28-year-old Oshawa, Ont., native spent three seasons with Buffalo (2013-15) before joining the Lions.
â€” Luke Willson and Jon Ryan. Willson, a tight end from Windsor, Ont., and Ryan, a punter from Regina, have both made two Super Bowl appearances with Seattle, winning in 2013. Willson, 26, is completing his fourth NFL season, all with the Seahawks. Ryan, 35, began his pro career with the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2004 before heading to Green Bay (2006-07) and ultimately Seattle (2008-present).
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press