HAMILTON -- The process of selecting the members of this year’s edition of the Black and Gold started in the small group setting of rookie camp on Thursday at McMaster’s Ron Joyce Stadium.
Ticats Head Coach and Director of Football Operations George Cortez knows full well that the early proceedings represent only the first small step toward acclimatizing his young players to the CFL brand of football.
Asked whether his first-year charges were feeling the pressure of performing in a new environment, the coach commended his players’ attitudes while affirming that nerves were a natural part of any rookie’s journey.
“They didn’t seem nervous to me, but I’m sure they were,” said the bench boss. “Some of the guys like (Chris) Duvalt and (Onrea) Jones were here in the OTAs. So they’re way ahead of the guys who weren’t here.”
Cortez used the example of the team’s recent high-profile addition to the receiving corps to illustrate the extent to which CFL football represented new territory for many players. Faced with radically different rules governing pre-snap motion in the NFL – where only one back is permitted to move once a formation is set and cannot move toward the line of scrimmage – Sam Giguere has a considerable learning curve to climb in training camp.
“The perfect example is Sam Giguere,” said Cortez. “When we signed him and he came in to talk to us, he asked what the biggest difference was going to be between playing in the States and coming back up here. I told him that he’s going to have a hard time getting out of the habit of being as still as a statue.”
“That’s just a fact because it’s not natural. The Americans have been coached for their entire life not to move and Sam’s been down there for three years with the same thing. We were learning better along those lines toward the end of the day than we were at the start. That’s just part of the process of learning the game.”
While the Black and Gold’s younger hopefuls worked to familiarize themselves with their surroundings, the Ticats’ marquee quarterback Henry Burris partook in quarterbacking drills and lent his voice to the teaching process.
Mostly an observer while recently acquired pivots looked to impress, Burris indicated that his own acclimation continues as he prepares to take the helm in Steeltown.
“I did throw a couple balls,” joked the veteran quarterback. “It was good to get the kinks out, get a feeling for wearing the pads, get on the same page with the young guys, and work to get us ready for when training camp gets underway on Sunday.”
Burris acknowledged that his own comfort with the CFL game and with Cortez’ offensive schematics brings with it both a competitive advantage and a responsibility to pass such knowledge on to the younger pivots in the Ticat fold.
“I’ve been in this offence for a few years now and I’m comfortable and familiar with all of the little tidbits and the small adjustments that we have to make,” said Burris. “It gives me a bit of a leg up on the guys but it also gives me the opportunity to guide the young guys, the quarterbacks, receivers and the guys out there with a question. I can be that extra voice to provide some comfort for them.”
It’s been quite some time since Burris donned his first CFL uniform, but the veteran quarterback says that he can readily recall the challenge of stepping into the league unawares.
“Seeing what the young guys are going through now, I definitely remember it quite vividly,” said Burris. “You come in here and you see an extra guy on both sides of the ball. You hear all of this new terminology and you’re trying to put it together over the course of a night. You’ve got to be able to step up and answer the call in 20 seconds, get the guys on the ball with the right call, know the snap count, know what defence is being played and make the right decision after the ball has been snapped.
“They’re swimming in knowledge right now, but hopefully these guys will be able to put it all together, and it all starts with getting on the field this morning.”
Despite being an old hand at CFL training camps, Burris argues that his off season move to Southern Ontario provides a welcome sense of newness to a well worn habit.
“It’s refreshing,” said Burris of his debut on the Ron Joyce field turf. “You get to come out and adjust to a new atmosphere. I’m in a great market in Hamilton that loves its football. Its one thing that I’ve always admired about this organization and the fanbase here: they love the game of football. To have the opportunity to come here and play was something I’d always wondered about. To be here now, it’s been a lot of fun.”
The fun for Burris and his youthful understudies continues on Friday, as the Ticats’ rookie camp enters its second day in preparation for the beginning of training camp on Sunday.
|2||Blue Bombers||DE||Mulumba, Andy|
|3||Alouettes via EDM||LB||Edem, Mike|