- Free Agency
TORONTO — Rookie camps are coming to a close as veterans report to their teams on Saturday and training camp officially begins on Sunday in the Canadian Football League.
Those aching for some football have only whetted their appetite this week, as the Bombers, Stampeders and REDBLACKS all take part in rookie camps and news begins to filter in across the league.
These teams took advantage of the opportunity to get their rookies up to speed before joining experienced veterans.
“Some of these guys get less reps [in training camp],” Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea told BlueBombers.com. “The vets come in and, this may sound surprising, but a lot of them want the reps. They’re not willing to give any up because they love it.
“Some of these guys are going to be forced to perform and show us what they can do on less reps.”
THE WAGGLE COVERS TRAINING CAMP
LISTEN: Episode 107 — Dissecting Durant Retirement, Camp Preview + Darvin Adams 1-on-1
James and Davis make sense of Darian Durant’s surprise retirement and look ahead toward the opening of training camp. Featuring Blue Bombers Receiver Darvin Adams.
“I think it’s pretty exciting,” echoed Stampeders bench boss Dave Dickenson in an interview with Stampeders.com. “We’re proud of the horse, we really are. We believe that when you put the horse on, that red and white, you’ve joined a special family. For these guys I think it’s a great opportunity and hopefully we can build from what we did.”
There were plenty of storylines coming into the week, all of which will continue when camps officially open this weekend.
In Ottawa, Head Coach Rick Campbell was able to get his team’s entire 2018 draft class on the field after agreeing to contracts in time for Wednesday’s initial workouts. That includes fourth overall pick Mark Korte, a highly-touted offensive lineman out of Alberta who’s ready to compete for a role with the club.
“The Canadian draft is the life blood of your Canadian talent, so to get all those guys in camp and them being here from day one is huge,” said Rick Campbell. “I know a few of those guys will make contributions and I’m looking forward to seeing how they do.”
For Korte there were no surprises, but it felt good to put the pads on and start making contact.
“I expected it to be fast-paced and high-tempo, and that’s exactly what I got,” Korte told OttawaREDBLACKS.com. “It was a fun day to get in with a new group of guys and get to know everybody and get to know the rookies I’ll go through the first season with.
“I think I have to show that I’ll do anything to be there, whether it’s playing any position on the line or putting in extra hours. I think that’s what’s really going to put me over the top and get me on the roster for day one.”
The REDBLACKS, who have taken an offensive lineman in the first round in five out of six drafts since joining the league, have a wealth of Canadian talent on the O-line, which should make for a competitive camp.
In Calgary, the most important competitions in Stamps camp got a head start with the rookies and quarterbacks this week. Andrew Buckley‘s retirement has opened up the door for the No. 2 and No. 3 quarterback spots, with Ricky Stanzi looking to hang on to the second-string job.
The Stampeders have brought in Tyler Rogers on Friday, while another newcomer in Nick Arbuckle came with some familiarity of the offence after competing with Stanzi for a roster spot in a rookie camp last year.
Another competition will be at running back, where Jerome Messam will be a notable absence in camp this year following his off-season departure to Regina. The Stamps will play an American at the position, with rookies Romar Morris and Don Jackson set to compete with returnee Terry Williams.
“The first thing coach said in the meetings before we got started was that someone here could be the one to rush for 1,000 yards. It’s a huge opportunity to come out here and compete for a job,” Morris said Thursday at McMahon Stadium. “I’m so thankful for the chance.”
One player who has turned heads on defence is Folarin Orimolade, who could compete to fill the spot vacated by Charleston Hughes. Dickenson called him an intriguing prospect, while reporters noted some similarities between Orimolade and Hughes.
Linebacker and last-round draft pick Boston Rowe was playing fullback during the camp, a position that Dickenson says could stick for the University of Calgary product.
Just like in Calgary, there are questions under centre for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Bombers struggled when Matt Nichols was out of the lineup due to injury late last year, and the departure of Darian Durant just before camp has opened up the No. 2 spot once again.
Alex Ross is competing with two other rookies and with just one season under his belt is the leading candidate to serve as Nichols’ primary backup. Chris Streveler and undrafted Canadian quarterback out of Syracuse Zack Mahoney are also competing for the job.
This week’s camp was also valuable for a pair of 2018 draft picks, who are vying for a role as the club looks to start two Canadian receivers. Daniel Petermann and Rashaun Simonise could benefit from the extra reps before vets show up.
“I’m coming in here to take a job, play specials (teams) and get on the roster,” said Petermann. “I just know they want to start two Canadians (at receiver) and so they need Canadian depth. I’m going to do whatever they say.”
Quarterback Matt Nichols said that as far as execution goes and understanding of the offence, the Bombers are further along than they’ve been in the past at this time of year.
“We’ve done a good job of preparing them for hitting the ground running and having some information under their belts,” said Nichols. “Here now in our third or fourth year together with the staff we kind of jump into next level offensive stuff, whereas a lot of places I’ve been we ease into it.”
The last few days have also brought with them plenty of roster movement across the league, and you can expect plenty more on Saturday and Sunday as the veterans begin to file in across the country.
So far veteran receiver Nick Moore announced his retirement, while the Lions parted ways with interior defensive lineman Mic’hael Brooks, a surprise move just two days before the start of camp.
The Eskimos are down a veteran lineman after the retirement of national guard Simeon Rottier, while sophomore D’Quan Bowers announced his retirement on Friday.
And in Toronto, the Argos have brought in Evan Gill with the intention of converting the former ninth overall pick to an offensive lineman.
With plenty more roster moves on the way, CFL.ca is tracking everything as veterans report and camps open up. Check back often for updates.