On Sunday night the Explorers hosted the Condors at Ohio Field. It was a one sided affair from beginning to end for Columbus who dominated the Condors to a 34-9 victory.
Out of all the positives to take away from the game, the Explorers are focusing on the one negative from it. And it's a big one. During the 3rd quarter CJ Robinson hauled in a catch, ran up field, made a man miss and went down to the ground...only problem is he didn't get back up. He ended up leaving the game and going to the locker room immediately. The concern for what just happened was justified when shortly after the game it was revealed by team doctors that he had broken his collarbone and will miss the next 7-9 weeks.
We were at the team facility today during Monday's practice and got a chance to speak to some of the staff as well as rookie WR Latavius Austin, who is primed to take over in CJ's absence. We first spoke with Coach Nicholson
What are your plans for the receivers and team as a whole moving forward?
"Just like i said at the presser, this is a team game and we still have games to play. We will have to find ways to produce without him here if we want to still be in a good spot for when he returns. I'd also like to add that we have some serious talent in that room, they might be young, but we brought them all here for a reason. Now its time to see who is going to help us win the next one and go from there."
Have you and the staff talked about who exactly is going to be getting a crack at the starting lineup now? Is it going to be a group effort?
"I have spoken to Noah(Explorer's assistant coach) about our plan and what we want to see happen. We both feel that Latavius(Austin) could step up and help us out. He showed flashes in week 1 and he is another big bodied guy. Plus he is a great team guy. Of course we will always field the best guys we can, but we feel that he deserves a shot first so hopefully he can capitalize on the opportunity."
Noah Underhill, the Assistant Coach, had this to say about it when we spoke to him.
"It's a next man up mentality. CJ is great and he is one of, if not the best, player in the game. But we are a really good team that is more than just one guy. Our receivers are very deep and while they aren't CJ yet, maybe one day they could be. We have spent a lot of time finding 'number 2'..now we get to see what we have."
-After speaking with the staff we made our way to the locker room where we caught up with rookie wide receiver Latavius Austin and had a chance to ask him a few questions about the injury and his new found role with the team.
How do you see the injury to CJ effecting the team moving forward?
"CJ's injury is a huge blow to the team and the locker room. He isn't just one of the stars on our team, he is also one of our team leaders in the locker room. It's gonna affect us because he is such a big part in the offense, but we just gotta find ways past it and prevail. Next man up as coach always tells us."
After talking with the coaches it seems as if you will be the guy to step in to the lineup along with Courtney Mitchell. It may not be the way you envisioned getting your shot, but are you happy to be getting that opportunity now?
"I don't worry about getting more shots or looks. I care more about everyone else getting the rock and we all eat. Plus, I am never happy when one of my comrades goes down. What does that say about me as a person?"
Understandable. How do you see yourself doing? Are you at all concerned about trying to step into a bigger role like this?
"I think i will adjust pretty well because the coaching staff has prepared me for situations like this and they put their trust in me. Back at Oklahoma I was the number one, so being the number one here doesn't really scare me. I just want us to play good offense and finish drives. We have the talent to still produce and they drafted me for a reason. Right now that reason is to be a team player and be the next man up."
After our day at the Explorer's Facility, it doesn't appear that the team is too concerned with whats ahead. There is a general consensus around the building that they have done their best to assemble a great team and have faith in the younger players in these situations. An injury to any player is bad, but when its a guy like CJ Robinson, you expect more cause for concern. We will find out soon if the staff is indeed well prepared for life without CJ or if they are a little over-confident. The Explorers travel to Chicago to take on the Tigers on Saturday March 7th at 4pm eastern. Tune in to the RFL on YouTube to watch the game.