WINNIPEG — After two long days of grueling two-a-day practices, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers took it easy on Wednesday and were joined by CFL officials who are touring the different training camps to walkthrough the rules with each team.
After the team spent an hour in meetings with the officials, they took to the field and practiced certain situations and had the officials whistle in plays and throw flags when they saw a penalty take place. The last half of the practice was devoted to more teaching and learning as the officials explained more about certain rules, including passes caught out of bounds, fumbles versus incomplete passes and procedure calls.
Even though there wasn’t much time to run a lot of plays, there were still a handful of players who stood out on Wednesday. Receiver Kito Poblah made a spectacular catch off a Buck Pierce throw and took off 40 yards downfield for a touchdown that drew a lot of cheering from those in attendance – which included a third grade class from Forest Park School.
Also looking good was receiver Terence Jeffers-Harris who caught a nice pass across the middle and used his speed to get down field.
The team returns to two-a-day practices for the next two days before hopping on a bus which will take them to Brandon for a practice on Saturday.
Stars of the Day
• Receiver Kito Poblah
• Receiver Terence Jeffers-Harris
• Quarterback Buck Pierce
• Defensive End Odell Willis
• Safety Brady Browne
Not Practicing Due to Injury
• Receiver Damian Sherman
• Defensive Back Deon Beasley
• Defensive Back Jonathan Hefney
• Offensive Lineman Obby Khan
• Receiver Aaron Hargreaves
• Fullback Scott McHenry
• Receiver Greg Betterson
• To get down to the CFL-mandated 68 players (plus non-counters), the Blue Bombers released import defensive back CJ James and non-import defensive back Chayce Elliott. Receiver Tim Brown also announced his retirement.
Special Guests in the Crowd
• A New York Jets scout was in attendance checking out the talent on the Blue Bomber roster.
MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — The Argos were back at ‘home’ today as they returned to their practiced field at UTM after weather forced them to move Tuesday’s workout.
It was another set of back-to-back practices with the sun blazing down all morning. The defence helped set the tone early with CB #28 Byron Parker entrenching himself in a down-field battle with #77 WR Todd Lowber. Lowber leaped to make the snag and had it firmly in his grips before the seventh-year cornerback stripped the pigskin out of his hands at the last possible second to break up the play.
The defence fed off of Parker’s effort with the defensive line and linebackers doing a solid job in both pass and run drills, and defensive backs #43 Armando Murillo and #24 Evan McCollough coming up with multiple big plays. The latter jumped a pass intended for Lowber, during team drills, and picked it off inside the twenty to take it back for a touchdown.
On the other side of the ball, WR #2 Chad Owens continued his stellar camp but it was WR #16 Brandon Rideau that stepped up in the receiving corps today. Rideau displayed solid route running and reliable hands – the type of play that was reminiscent of his play in training camp last season.
Rideau even took part in select kick return drills, which was one small part of a very loaded special teams itinerary. The league’s best special teams in 2010 continued to work on the most underrated facet of the game. This practice seemed to have variety as returning, blocking, long-snapping, kicking and down-field coverage were all on the schedule.
The Argos will return to the practice field Thursday morning but will earn a bit of a brake with only one workout scheduled for 9:40 a.m.
Notes: Both WR #88 Mike Bradwell and DE #91 Ben Ishola were sidelined with injuries while DT #94 Kevin Huntley and QB #9 Steven Jyles were in uniform but didn’t participate most drills.
MONTREAL– For the first time since the opening of training camp, quarterback Anthony Colville was in shoulder pads while joining his teammates at Coulter Field at Bishop’s University on Wednesday morning.
Having been limited with a nagging calf injury previously, Calvillo took reps with the first team. It marked the first time that Calvillo has been able to partake in both practices and he had no trouble locating his tall receivers.
Although spectacular catches by Jamel Richardson and S.J. Green have become almost the norm over the past few seasons, a number of new faces have been making some noise of their own since the start of camp, notably, former Oakland Raiders’ wide out Jerry Porter and former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Dallas Baker.
Another receiver who has been steadily improving and taking advantage of his height and frame to make big catches is Brandon London. Having played on the Montreal Alouettes’ practice roster last season, London appears determined to have a greater impact in 2011.
“If I do what I’m supposed to do and make the team, we could line-up on some plays and be 6’4″-6’5″ across the board. With the small corners in this league, we could be dangerous. When practicing, I like it when the quarterbacks throw me the ball high up in the air,” said London who has also played with the New York Giants.
Last year, he joined the Alouettes in the middle of the season, without having truly mastered the playbook. Now he appears much more comfortable in his role and knows what to expect.
“My body hates that I came in early for rookie camp, but my mind loves it. I was able to learn the plays and it’s helping me get a better understanding regarding what we are doing,” he added.
Suspended since the beginning of camp, defensive end Chima Ihekwoaba joined his teammates on Wednesday.
Seven players have been released by the Alouettes. They are Leroy Vann (DB), Taylor Scott (DT), Doug Dutch (DB), Henry Sailes (WR), George Clinkscale (DE), Mike Thomas (LB) and Ryan McFoy (DB).
Training camp will resume on Thursday at Coulter Field at Bishop’s University, with back-to-back practices scheduled to start at 7:50 a.m.
HAMILTON — Special teams is a matter of will, not a matter of talent or physical capabilities but make no mistake — it takes a talented player to compete on the special units in the CFL. However, the athletes who are great special teams players in the CFL have an unwavering desire to compete.
“We’re looking for guys who have a passionate determination to go down and get the ball,” special teams coordinator and assistant head coach Brad Miller said after practice on Wednesday.
There is nothing flashy about running down and covering a kickoff, punt or missed field goal, but the best way for a rookie to break into the league and earn his coaches trust is by taking care of his assignments on the special forces.
Tiger-Cats linebacker and special teams ace Yannick Carter, who is entering his fifth CFL season, has built a strong reputation as a reliable player to line up on kickoff, punt and kick cover units.
“Special teams on the field is one of the toughest things I have ever had to experience in my life,” Carter said. “On defence, if you make a mistake you have the next play to redeem yourself, but on special teams it’s one play so you have to give it your all at that moment.”
A strong mental makeup is required to become a legit and productive special forces player.
“You’ve got to be determined and you’ve got to be strong in the mind because there will be times where you’ll be running down field and all of a sudden a guy will come out of nowhere and ear-hole you, so you have to be mentally prepared to get back up and fight hard,” Carter said.
“Also, know that your physical training you put in during the off-season is going to pay off in the long run.”
The Laurier product changed up his training regimen while preparing for the 2011 CFL season, which included Muay Thai fitness training in Milton five times a week. The switch in training techniques has the savvy teamer feeling bigger, stronger and faster coming into training camp this year.
“So far in practice I feel so much more at ease in terms of the amount of reps that we’re taking, running down field full speed and being able to come back and do it again for a second set,” Carter explained. “Last year I kind of struggled with my stamina, but this year I feel like I’ve gotten that edge on the competition.”
Carter’s experience and leadership will be valuable assets to the Ticats this season, as the team will need to replace last year’s special teams captain Ray Mariuz after he retired last month.
“Ray was a great player, I’m not trying to fill his shoes, I’m not trying to re-live his legacy that he left here with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the CFL,” Carter said. “I’m trying to create that of my own and I’m really looking forward to doing that… everyone wants to elevate their game to the next level.”
Ticats rookies are battling to earn a spot on special teams just as Carter did five years ago as a first year player with Saskatchewan. The competition to win a job on Miller’s special teams units has been intense in the early stages of camp.
“There’s been so much talent and we are still well within the context of teaching phase. We have a lot of guys who are putting out a tremendous amount of effort. When we get to the Black and Gold scrimmage we’ll have a better chance to evaluate,” Miller said.
Although, one rookie has stood out to the five-year veteran with his special teams efforts.
“Brandon Denson, he has a great ability to get down field, very physical, very powerful and explosive guy,” Carter said. “Even when he gives me a show look on the scout team it’s hard to block against him.”
Kick cover hopefuls will be tested each and every day in practice by having to track down the Tiger-Cats own explosive kick returner, Marcus Thigpen.
“That guy [Thigpen], he can stop on a dime and he’s full speed in the opposite direction before you can even blink, you get your practice in against him because there is a lot of returners in the league that will do that to you,” Carter said. “Having a guy in practice that will give you a good look is real important.”
TRAINING CAMP NOTES
• DB Chris Rwabukamba stood out on Wednesday. The rookie from Duke made a great interception during the first fire period and later showed excellent coverage skills to knock down a long pass that seemed destined for Maurice Mann’s hands
• Jason Boltus and Aaron Kelly connected on a huge completion that demonstrated Boltus’ powerful arm and Kelly’s ability to separate from defenders
• Defensive tackle Demonte Bolden earned Coach Bellefeuille’s praise by hustling to track down Quinton Porter as the veteran pivot scrambled to find an open receiver
• PLAY OF THE DAY: Arland Bruce III can be relied upon to make a spectacular catch during virtually every practice. On Wednesday, he made an unbelievable grab that drew cheers from his teammates and the fans in the stands. With Bruce working down the field against DB Carlos Thomas, Kevin Glenn launched a pass about 30 yards downfield. With one hand, Bruce reached around Thomas’ back and hauled in the ball.