June 1, 2014

8 things you need to know from Day 1 of Training Camp

CP/Terri Flatt/Alouettes

CFL.ca Staff

TORONTO — It was a busy Day 1 at training camps across the country.  The day marked the beginning of a new era in some places and the end of certain eras in others.  Miss any of it? Here are the top 8 headlines that you need to know from Day #1.

8. All things new in Winnipeg

New coach, new quarterback, new outlook for a Blue Bombers squad that looked to use Sunday as a launching pad for a productive training camp and thus, a turnaround season.

Drew Willy took to the field with his teammates for the first time while Mike O’Shea took an opportunity to set the new marching orders for the Blue and Gold.

New to Winnipeg but not to O’Shea’s coaching style, former Toronto Argonauts linebacker Ejiro Kuale says it is hard not to want to play for the Bombers new sideline boss.

“He understands what it’s like to be a player,” says Kuale. “He approaches the game differently from any of the coaches I’ve ever been around.”

7. Roster changes in Hamilton

The Ticats opened up camp by placing longtime offensive lineman Peter Dyakowski on the 9-game injured list.

Dyakowski tore his patellar tendon during the 101st Grey Cup last season, and was working cautiously throughout the off-season to get himself football-ready.

“The first couple of months were brutal, I was horizontal for the most part,” he said in April.

On a brighter note, the Ticats bolstered their defensive front on Sunday, announcing the signing of All-Star defensive tackle Ted Laurent.
Last season, the 26-year-old made 36 defensive tackles, four quarterback sacks, three tackles for a loss and one forced fumble in 18 games.

6. Always an eye on Ochocinco

As expected, the spotlight was on Chad Johnson as the Als opened up training camp at Coulter Field on the campus of Bishop’s University.

New Alouettes head coach Tom Higgins offered immense praise to his import receiver after practice.

“Nothing but positive things can be said about him,” said Higgins.

Johnson, meanwhile, was thoroughly impressed with what he saw from his new teammates.

“The competition level has been an eye-opener. Not only at mini-camp, but coming out here today…it’s an eye-opener again.”

5. How healthy is Lulay?

On a beautiful day in Kamloops, the main topic of conversation after the Lions’ first practice of the season was all about Travis Lulay’s recovery from off-season shoulder surgery.

“I feel good. Training camp is going to be a day-to-day progression,” said the 2011 Most Outstanding Player.

A partial dislocation of his throwing shoulder kept Lulay on the bench for the final seven weeks of the 2013 season, but he did play in the Western Semi-Final loss to Saskatchewan.

During the team’s mini-camp in April, Lulay was limited to throwing for a maximum of 20 yards. It will be interesting to see how he progresses as camp continues in BC.

4. Two Horse Race in Cowtown

The battle has begun in Calgary.  With Kevin Glenn out of the picture, Drew Tate will look to firmly cement himself as the starter short and long-term while Bo Levi Mitchell attempts to take the role out from under the fiery pivot.

No stranger competition, Tate took to the field today ready to compete.

“It brings out the best in us and I think that being said, we could be a starting point for the team,” Tate said Sunday. “If the quarterbacks are battling, everyone else is battling kind of thing.”

3. A day of firsts

He will be 39 next week but Henry Burris was the new quarterback for a brand new team as the Ottawa REDBLACKS opened camp for the first time in team history.

While Burris was the focal point, many players took their opportunity to immediately try and shed the ‘expansion team’ tag.

“We aren’t thinking that we are an expansion team anymore, we are the Ottawa REDBLACKS”, said former Saskatchewan Roughrider defensive lineman Keith Shologan.

Burris echoes his teammates sentiments, saying that the skill on this team is not that of your typical expansion franchise.

“We’ve got some good talent here,” said Burris. “I think we’re going to be competitive and we’ll be fun to watch.”

2. Kackert stuns by announcing retirement

The Argos made the first major headline of the day, announcing that their starting tailback, Chad Kackert, not only won’t be ready for the start of training camp but his injured ankle has forced him to retire.

The 2012 Grey Cup MVP suffered a freak injury prepping for last season’s Eastern Final and ultimately ended his career.  It didn’t end his time with the Boatmen however as he joins the club’s staff as a Strength and Conditioning Coach.

“I wasn’t expecting him to be here as a player,” said Argos head coach Scott Milanovich said. “It was a very serious injury, particularly with his style of playing using his quickness and speed, and we were planning all along, unfortunately, to have to replace him.”

1. Simon says no more

15 years, 1,029 catches, 16,352 yards, and 103 touchdowns into his illustrious career, Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver Geroy Simon has decided to hang up his cleats.

After reports surfaced on Saturday that Simon was “expected” to announce his retirement later this week, Riders GM Brendan Taman confirmed the news during the team’s first day of training camp on Sunday.

“Rider GM Brendan Taman confirms Geroy Simon won’t be back in 2014. Says it was a mutual parting,” tweeted CFL.ca’s Rod Pedersen from Riders training camp.

Simon joins other venerable names such as Anthony Calvillo, Terrence Edwards, Angus Reid, Marwan Hage and Dimitri Tsoumpas to retire this year.