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CALGARY — There’s nothing quite like the first day of training camp.
Even a veteran player who wasn’t able to fully participate in the first day of practice couldn’t hide his enthusiasm as Nik Lewis was out on the McMahon Stadium field on Sunday in a mentor/unofficial coach capacity.
“I haven’t played in a long time,” said the veteran slotback, who returns for an 11th season with the Red and White. “I want it.”
His football activity is momentarily limited because of an injection he received Saturday.
“I’m fine,” Lewis insisted. “I get shots every year in my ankle and my knee and with everything going on, I just didn’t get a chance to get it done until yesterday. You can’t run for the first two days after getting it done, I’ll be back out here on Tuesday.”
Lewis’ 2013 season ended in August when he suffered a severe ankle injury, so he’s especially eager for this training camp.
“I waited a long time, but I feel prepared,” he said. “I feel good. I put in the work this off-season to come back strong. I’m just excited to get back around these guys. To show these guys what I can do.”
While the veteran pass-catcher eases his way back into things, the rookies got their first taste of working the veteran group.
While it’s customary for the young players to look overmatched when suddenly facing players who’ve been around the CFL block a time or three, that wasn’t the case on Sunday.
“I was very impressed with the young guys,” said Stamps head coach and general manager John Hufnagel. “They took advantage of the two days of rookie camp and there weren’t a whole lot of mistakes, which is not normal.”
Not surprisingly, the quarterbacks were a popular topic of conversation on Day 1 of camp as the media locks in on the battle for the No. 1 job between Drew Tate and Bo Levi Mitchell. Coach Huff was asked to compare his veteran pivots.
“That’s not an easy answer to give quickly,” said Hufnagel. “They each bring their personality to the position. The best way I can explain is that Drew is more of a jitterbug. He’ll make plays out of nothing just because of his mobility, elusiveness and great vision and accuracy. Bo is a little bit of a stronger-arm guy. He has the ability to move around and make plays, but he’s more of a pocket guy who can throw the ball down the field.”
Tate has been with the Stampeders since 2009 and became the starter in Week 17 of the 2011 season. Injuries have limited him to eight regular-season and two playoff starts since that time but he has been very productive when healthy, posting a 5-0 record when he plays the entire game. He has completed 259 or 381 passes during his Stamps career (a 68.0-per cent completion rate, the highest total in franchise history) for 3,270 yards, 24 touchdowns and just nine interceptions.
Mitchell, 23, has been with the Stampeders for two seasons and posted a 3-0 record when called upon as a starter in 2013. He completed 94 of 135 passes last season for 1,156 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.