THE CANADIAN PRESS
MONTREAL — With just over two months until training camps across Canada get underway, the Montreal Alouettes are calmly preparing for life after Anthony Calvillo.
The absence of Calvillo will be especially difficult for Jamel Richardson, the 32-year-old receiver who saw his 2013 season cut short in August after tearing a ligament in his knee.
Calvillo, meanwhile, saw his season come to a close a few weeks later after sustaining a concussion.
|Smith in it to win it
After signing an extension back in December, there’s little doubt in Troy Smith’s mind that he’ll be the starting quarterback for the Montreal Alouettes when the team opens up training camp in June.
As a result of his own absence, Richardson was never given the opportunity to develop any chemistry with Troy Smith and Tanner Marsh, both of whom replaced Calvillo at certain points of the season.
Now that Calvillo has entered retirement, both Smith and Marsh will be vying for his old job once training camp opens in June.
“It will be weird not seeing the AC in the locker room, even though last year, after seeing what he went through, I had a good idea that it would be his last season,” said Richardson, who was in Montreal on Monday to undergo some medical exams.
“We’ll miss him, but he had to do what was best for him,” he added.
For the first time since he joined the Alouettes in 2008, Richardson won’t be receiving any passes from Calvillo.
However, he is salivating at the thought of hauling in passes from Smith, who showed last year that he’s capable of making big throws with a lot of power.
“Your eyes light up when you see a quarterback with that kind of arm. Troy has all the tools, and Tanner has all the mechanics to do well as well,” said Richardson, who registered 1,000 receiving yards in his first five seasons with the Als.
“I think things will go well with them. Troy and Tanner both have good arms and hate to lose. And they won’t have to do it all by themselves, we have plenty of offensive players that are capable of making big plays,” he added.
“We’re going to help them, all they have to worry about is getting us the ball, and we’ll take care of the rest.”
Richardson also believes that last year’s “learning under fire” technique will give both pivots an advantage heading into the 2014 campaign.
“They know what to expect now. They’ll have a much better idea of everything that can happen during a game. This year, Troy will have an actual training camp, compared to last season when he showed up and started playing with players who he didn’t know,” he said.
“This year, he’ll get the chance to familiarize himself with his receivers. I’m excited to see the competition between the two of them at camp,” he added.
If Marsh has anything to say about it, there will definitely be a competition at camp; even if new head coach Tom Higgins and general manager Jim Popp have already said the starting job is Smith’s to lose.
“I’m going to do the best I can, and find a way to get noticed,” said Marsh.
“We needed four quarterbacks last year, so you never know what can happen in the CFL,” he added.
Marsh was also in Montreal on Monday to undergo some medical examination. The 23-year-old pivot, who injured his right thumb last season, said that he’s recovered 100 per cent.
During the off-season, Marsh spent a lot of time trying to improve his footwork, hoping to achieve more consistency with respect to the accuracy of his passes.
Richardson, meanwhile, estimates that his knee is about “85-90 per cent” healed. He claims that he’s in “training camp mode”, as he’s been working out twice a day.
“I can do everything I normally do, including cuts on my routes,” he said.
“I’m aiming to be ready for the first game of the season.”
So when Richardson lines up next to Smith and Marsh on the first day of training camp on June 1st, he’ll offer up some valuable advice: be yourself.
“AC is irreplaceable. He played at a superior level. All a quarterback should do is be himself, and play his own game, said the 10-year veteran.
Even though Marsh knows he’ll be able to fend for himself, he admits that he’ll miss having the advantage of receiving advice from Calvillo.
“I can’t imagine how often I must have gotten on his nerves when I’d ask him questions last year,” laughed Marsh.
“But I was able to ask him anything about football and he always gave me a great answer. Him not being here this year will be tough.”
“But I think I’ll still give him a call every now and then!”