WINNIPEG — Kyries Hebert hasn't slowed down on the football field — and his wit is still quick off of it.
The Montreal linebacker will play the 150th game of his 12-year CFL career when the Alouettes face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Thursday.
Hebert has seen and heard a lot, and isn't afraid to speak his mind — like when the 36-year-old was told Wednesday after arriving in Winnipeg that Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols described the Alouettes as having the "toughest defence" in the league.
"Usually when guys tell you how good that you are, it's really just to soften you up or to get you thinking," Hebert said. "I don't want to hear it.
"In my mind, he thinks we're the worst and we're not good and I'm the sorriest player on earth. That's what I think he thinks about me so I'm going into the game with that approach, not that he thinks that we're good."
Hebert leads Montreal (2-3) in defensive tackles with 36, good for third in the league. It's his sixth season with the Alouettes. The Louisiana native's career began in 2004 with Ottawa and he's also suited up for Winnipeg and Hamilton.
He's built a reputation for being physical, which has come with some accusations that he's a "dirty player."
"I don't like that," Hebert said. "I'm aggressive, I'm violent, I tear stuff up, but I don't think it's dirty. It's usually within the rules most of the time."
Then he added with a chuckle: "Ninety-nine per cent of the time, 98, 96 per cent of the time, I'm pretty sure. I do what I can to be a difference-maker on the field."
Hebert said he likes the defence run by co-ordinator Noel Thorpe because it fits his style of play.
It's a defence Nichols said will give the Bombers (2-2) the toughest test of the season.
"They cause a lot of chaos — a lot of different blitzes, a lot of different coverages," Nichols said after his team's morning walk-through.
"They get after you, and they do it for four quarters. They make it tough. I think it's been the toughest defence to play against for the last few years."
Montreal's defence is ranked first in the CFL for fewest points allowed, 109 (21.8 points per game), while Winnipeg's defenders are eighth with 139 points (34.8).
But Winnipeg will counter with an offence that's put up 128 points (32 per game) for second place, although it couldn't hold on to a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter of last week's 45-42 loss to the B.C. Lions.
Montreal is coming off a 24-19 loss to Ottawa. The Als' Darian Durant-led offence is ranked last in the league in average points per game (20.2) after scoring 101. They've allowed the fewest sacks with three.
Bombers offensive lineman Travis Bond said his teammates in the trenches are fired up for the challenge.
"They just mix it up a little bit, try to shuffle guys, try to confuse the offence," Bond said.
Failing to hold onto the lead last week has added some spark.
"For this game here, the next game on the schedule, we've got to get the win," Bond said. "There's no ifs ands or buts about it, we've got to come out fired up."
Hebert will be ready, and even threw some praise at his opponents - with his tongue planted in his cheek.
"It's the greatest offence I've ever seen. They're amazing," he quipped. "I think Matt Nichols is going to win the MVP."
Notes - Winnipeg has one change from last week. Defensive back/punt returner Kevin Fogg is in and Robert Porter is out ... Bombers linebacker Maurice Leggett is missing his second game with lower-body injury ... Montreal receiver Tiquan Underwood is injured and Eugene Lewis gets on the roster.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press