Riders DE Hughes ready to 'drop the hammer' on former Calgary teammates
Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, left, is chased by Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive lineman Charleston Hughes during second half CFL action at Mosaic Stadium in Regina on Thursday, July 5, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor)
Charleston Hughes is good-naturedly seeing red as he prepares to oppose the Calgary Stampeders for the first time.
"They'd better strap up, because I'm going to be trying to drop the hammer on everybody so I can laugh -- so I can text them after the game and say, 'Hey, I got you,"' the Saskatchewan Roughriders' defensive end said Friday, a day before before facing his former team.
One of the former teammates Hughes is looking to "drop the hammer on" is quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who will figure prominently in Saturday's sold-out game at Mosaic Stadium.
"I'm looking forward to hitting him," Hughes said. "I'm pretty sure it's going to be tough to get to him, because he throws quick a lot. It's going to feel great when I get the first one out of the way and ready for the second one."
Hughes spent his first 10 CFL seasons with the Stampeders before an off-season trade that brought him to Saskatchewan.
The 34-year-old was dealt even though he led the league in quarterback sacks in each of the past two seasons. The four-time CFL all-star, who helped Calgary win Grey Cups in 2008 and 2014, is also setting the pace this season with six sacks in five games.
"The secret is that I'm like a snake," Hughes said. "I don't have no vertebrae, so I can bend and twist and manoeuvre through offensive linemen like it's nothing."
After doing that so successfully in Calgary for a decade, Hughes was asked how he would like the Stampeders to remember what he accomplished.
"I don't necessarily care if they remember it or not," he responded. "I think my performance speaks for itself and what I've done for that team speaks for itself.
"I've put up enough stats and put up enough years and earned enough respect throughout the league to know that I am the most elite defensive end in this league, and there's a reason for that."
That's also a reason why the Roughriders acquired Hughes in early February. He was initially dealt to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who promptly flipped him over to Saskatchewan.
Chris Jones, the Roughriders' head coach and general manager, was Calgary's defensive co-ordinator early in Hughes' CFL career.
"He's just one of those throwback type guys," Jones said. "He could have played in the '60s, the '70s, the '80s, because he doesn't necessarily look the part. He's not the biggest, most talented, most physical looking guy. He's not the fastest guy. He's just a football player."
Hughes has helped the Roughriders (3-2) win each of their past two games, both against the Tiger-Cats. Saskatchewan allowed only one offensive touchdown over that span.
The challenge will get even tougher against the 5-0 Stampeders -- variety being the key to slowing them down.
"You can't line up and do one thing," said Jones, who is also the Roughriders' defensive co-ordinator. Last year when we played them late in the year, we did a decent job of mixing the coverages, and I've got to do that (Saturday) night."
On the other side of the ball, the Roughriders are hoping for a fast start against the stingy Stampeders.
"It's very important because with a good team like Calgary, a lot of games they have been getting ahead," Roughriders quarterback Brandon Bridge said.
"They always start fast and we have to match their intensity. Since we are at home, we definitely have the home-field advantage. We have to come out swinging and hopefully a lot go to the fences."