April 28, 2014

New year, new journey: Ticats take first steps of 2014

Gregory Campbell/Ticats.ca

Isaac Owusu – Ticats.ca Staff

HAMILTON — The Tiger-Cats have officially begun their campaign in defending their East Division crown.

On a chilled and windy Monday morning, the team practiced at McMaster University’s Ron Joyce Stadium. Over 50 veterans and rookies took part in drills as the team opened its mini-camp.

Though this is the first step in the many upcoming positional battles, and preparation for the 2014 season, two notable import players took an unorthodox approach to kicking things off.

“This year is the first year that I really made the transition from being in the [United] States to Canada full time” said defensive end Brandon Boudreaux, an Atlanta native going into his third season.

“My goals are to get back to the Grey Cup, win it and show people that we weren’t happy just to be there, but we want to win it.”

As a returning leader on the defence, Boudreaux’s off-season was spent domestically here in Hamilton. He made the most of his time by improving his fundamentals such as his flexibility through hot yoga and intense stretching.

The opening of mini-camp allows him to continue being an on-field leader.

“I try to go out in each practice and each day and lead by example; try to be the first one to this drill, the first one sprinting once a ball is thrown, be the first one in line and just doing things right,” he said.

“Technically and mentally, just being on top of my game so young guys have someone to look up to.”

On the other side of the ball, fourth year wide receiver Bakari Grant, an Oakland native who also spent his first full off-season in Canada can laugh about how intense the winter was, but knows it was what he had to do.

“There’s a different intensity and different expectation from my perspective. I really wanted to focus on my game and make that everything, so everything that I have been doing has been focused on this facility,” he said inside the meeting room at Ticats headquarters.

Like Boudreaux, Grant understands the importance of making the very most out of mini-camp.

“It’s a good chance to see some of the guys that we haven’t seen before. I love football, and I’m tired of the weight room and tired of doing all the speed work. It’s been good to get back on the field,” he said.

“A big part of this year for me is the returning coaching staff and offence. This is the first time in my career that I’ve had that.”

Grant welcomes the opening of mini-camp as a chance to get used to the most glaring difference, having a new guy throwing him the ball. Zach Collaros, who spent last season with the Toronto Argonauts, is expected to begin the season at the top of the depth chart.

“That’s one thing you learn about the game as a pro, there’s always going to be some sort of changeover and you like to think it’s for the better, so all I can do is prepare myself and hope that whoever is in the position across from me is doing the same.”

Though it was only day one of mini-camp there is an eagerness from the players that is hard to miss.