Canadian Football League training camps are set to open on Sunday across the land and for the B.C. Lions, the club will descend upon Kamloops, British Columbia for this year’s tryouts. After a fourth-place showing in the CFL Western Division in 2009 (and an appearance in the Eastern Division Final in Montreal), the football club has undergone considerable upgrades.
“Oh yah, huge changes,” said Lions kicker Paul McCallum this week. “QB Casey Printers came into the team near the end of the season and that continuity with the receivers and the quarterback is key. For him, coming in having a training camp will be key. Defensively, there were some holes to fill but name-wise, they’ve done that. We’ll have to see how things work out in training camp.”
The 40-year old product of Surrey, B.C. is headed into his 18th CFL season but will have to battle with sophomore Sean Whyte for the Lions’ kicking job. McCallum says he has set no goal for how many more seasons he’d like to play in the CFL.
“I take it year by year. My goal is to lead the league in field goal percentage and help my team with my punting placements and I want to compete at a high level. I told (Lions head coach and G.M.) Wally Buono last year that if I’m not competing at a high level, I’ll walk away. But I’m happy with the level I have played at.” CORTEZ MENTORS DICKENSON
Through all of the Calgary Stampeders’ success through the past two decades, offensive coordinator George Cortez was the one main constant. However after four Grey Cup championships with Calgary, Cortez accepted the job as Buffalo Bills quarterbacks coach in January leaving a massive hole in the Stamps’ offensive strategizing. However Cortez has kept close tabs on his old team.
“They’re busy as everybody in the CFL is,” Cortez said after the Bills’ first week of OTAs on Friday. “I’m sure the Stamps will be fine. They’ve got a great core group of players and very good coaches. I would be quite surprised if they aren’t in contention, but every team in the West feels that way I’m sure.”
Former star Stamps’ quarterback Dave Dickenson will have a large role in building the team’s game plans in 2010 if not specifically calling plays. His football professor predicts big things.
“Dave will do very well,” Cortez said. “I’m not exactly sure which way they’re going to go, but I know Dave will still be coaching quarterbacks. We had several discussions before I left and he was more interested in when I found the time to do everything! It’s quite a transition from player to coach and much more goes into it than you think, especially as time goes on. But I expect Dave will do very well.”
BATTLE ON D-LINE HEATS UP
In an informal poll at www.rodpedersen.com, a whopping 55% of Roughrider fans said they will be watching the battle at defensive end the closest once training camp opens. The team has a host of fresh faces signed to the training camp roster, all vying to become the replacements for John Chick and Stevie Baggs who signed in the NFL this past off-season. Among those in contention include Joe Sykes and Willie Evans (who spent last year on the practice roster) along with newcomers Brent Hawkins and Shomari Williams.
Retired Rider great Scott Schultz lined up between Chick and Baggs during the 2008 and 2009 CFL seasons and weighed in on the competition.
“I look at it as a player because as a fan I can’t wrap my head around it,” Schultz explained. “I’m just becoming a fan. But as a player, guys now get a chance. (Veteran DE) Luc Mullinder should be licking his chops and this new guy, the #1 pick (Shomari Williams) will prove whether he’s worth his salt to be a back-up.”
The Rider Nation is nervous that Chick and Baggs won’t adequately be replaced and Schultz understands their anxiety.
“Well sure but that comes down to a fan’s football IQ and some fans have higher ones than others. The sexy names like Baggs and Chick are going to give way to two new guys who are just as good and popular. It’s just a matter of who will they be and when will they present themselves?”
FIRST CLASS FACILITY
The Roughriders unveiled their new players’ training/meeting facility at a news conference Monday, in conjunction with the announcement of their partnership with Canadian Blood Services. The building is just a few blocks away from the team’s home, Mosaic Stadium.
“It opened up this winter,” revealed Rider President Jim Hopson. “It has exceeded our expectations. We knew we needed a much better facility for our players. We were in a very small room, very cramped, very limited. It works for us because the stadium is close and the business office is right around the corner and the guys love it.”
“It’s really important for that camaraderie and keeping the team together. We have about 20 players who live here year-round so this gives them a place to meet and their wives are welcome as well. We’ve had players tell us it rivals anything they’ve seen in pro football. When we signed Dominique Dorsey this off-season, he came by and he said this rivals what the Washington Redskins have if not better.”
The people of Saskatchewan are on pins and needles awaiting the provincial government’s much-anticipated announcement regarding the new stadium project later this month. On Monday, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall provided an update.
“I’m not sure we’ll be at go or no-go at that point because we’re not sure what role the federal government will play, if any,” stated Wall. “I will say this though; the amount of private sector partners stepping forward has been encouraging along with the City of Regina. There’s an opportunity here for something special to happen without unnecessarily competing for infrastructure dollars we have set aside for healthcare, education and highways. We’ll continue to work with the federal government and other partners to see what we can build together. It may be a once-in-a-generation opportunity and we don’t want to pursue it just for the sake of pursuing it. It has to make sense for the taxpayers.”