TORONTO — Some of the league’s top players came together for the player media day on Thursday afternoon.
Nine of the league’s brightest stars spoke to the media over Zoom in three separate groups. The first group consisted of Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, Riders pivot Cody Fajardo and Ticats linebacker Simoni Lawrence. The second group was a trio of QBs, including Toronto’s Matt Nichols, Winnipeg’s Zach Collaros and Edmonton’s Trevor Harris. Finally, the third group of the day included BC receiver Lemar Durant, Montreal linebacker Henoc Muamba and Ottawa quarterback Nick Arbuckle.
The players touched on many topics including what they’ve been up to during the extended off-season, the toughest thing about not playing football in 2020 and looking back on the 2019 campaign.
Here are some of the best statements from the media day.
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“Just doing some X’s and O’s stuff and kind of getting a perspective from the coaching side. Obviously implementing, installing stuff that you’re a part of as a player but when you have to do it for other players for the first time in my career, it’s definitely giving me another perspective and a lot of respect for what our coaches go through. I purchased a house here in May and I’ve just been been Bob the Builder of sorts just trying to get it all done. Been filling my time with some YouTube videos. I say I’ve got a bachelors degree in YouTube University because I go on there and I try and learn whatever I can and put it into the house.”
– Fajardo on what he’s been up to this extended off-season
“For myself, it’s hard for me to sit still so I go and workout with a couple of teammates in their respective neighbourhoods. Just go hang out and train. The good thing about being in the States right now is we have a lot of physical therapy places that are open and you’re allowed to train in there so you can still get your every day work. Nothing too much has changed for me, as far as training.”
– Lawrence on keeping up training
“What I’ve done is asked a lot of questions. Me and J Wall (Jamar Wall) came in together and then Colton Hunchak, his partner is Larissa and she does a lot of speaking on the concept. I’ve asked those two about certain things. When everything was going down, right there at the beginning of the off-season, you get a lot of media requests of, ‘hey, will you come on TSN and talk about what’s going on down in the States?’ Everyone asks those questions. You’re asking a white guy who has been living in Canada for the last eight years to go on and talk about what’s been going on in black culture in the United States. It doesn’t seem right or smart and frankly, it’s just not the best look to act like I know anything about it. Asking J Wall and Colton and those guys, ‘What is the best thing I can do as a player, as a teammate, as a brother to help?’ And the biggest thing has been to listen. I think it was Mike Miller, he came out with a really powerful letter and was like, ‘the best thing I can do as a teammate to these guys is support but don’t try to support from the front.’ Don’t try to act like I’m the one that is leading the charge or anything. Just be in the back. Be a part of it. Be with these guys. Listen, understand and then when somebody else asks me a question like, ‘hey, you have a lot of black teammate. What’s going on? How do you help?’ I can say, ‘hey, well this is what my buddy Simoni is telling me. This is what Jamar Wall is telling me.’ And echo their words instead of coming up with something from my heart when I’m not the one going through that like they are.”
– Mitchell on how to support his black teammates
“It’s just about support. Especially if you have a teammate and you’re watching the teammate going through something, even it’s the little Twitter beef with somebody, like a fan or something. I’m sure if Bo Levi, if a fan from Calgary was talking about another player and being disrespectful and saying certain things that that black player does not appreciate. If you have someone like Cody or Bo saying, “why are you saying that?” that makes the fan look at it from a different perspective.”
– Lawrence on how non-black teammates can show support
“I know that I showed up early morning every day, still working with the guys and trying to be kind of a player coach and trying to be as involved as possible. I’ve been in the league for 11 years and that was my first experience even getting to go to a Grey Cup and being able to experience that. I soaked it all in and celebrated it and had a great time. Who’s to say how much me being around the back half of the season helped out, I don’t know. I know that I played half the games that year and won some football games to help us get to that point so I do feel like I was definitely a part of it. Obviously not playing out there in the back half of the season just changed my role and I fully accepted that and had a great time celebrating and going on that ride with all of the guys that I had played a lot of football games with. I was super excited to see all my teammates to go out and win a championship. I celebrated probably as hard as anyone.”
– Nichols on his involvement with the Bombers’ playoff and Grey Cup run in 2019
“Matt was huge for me coming in so late and helping me with the offence. Obviously the Xs and Os portion but accepting me into the locker room. Accepting me into the quarterback room. Matt was integral for us down the stretch, in the meeting rooms, on the field and just his leadership. You could tell that guys still looked to him even though he couldn’t be out there on the field during the stretch run. One of my favourite memories from the entire run there was after we won that game there in Saskatchewan. Coming back into the locker room and the emotion that everybody had, and specifically Matt and the quarterback group, chugging Bud Lights in the locker room after that was one of the most vivid memories for me, honestly, after that whole thing. Just the emotion that Matt had and everybody had. From the quarterback perspective, we all know how much time you put into it and to have, pretty much a bad luck injury take that away, and keep you off the field, it’s terrible. We’ve all been a part of it. Matt was integral for me, integral for the team and that memory really sticks out. I’ve never told Matt that but Matt, that was an awesome moment for me.”
– Collaros on how important Nichols was for the Grey Cup run last year
“Across the board, players-wise in Edmonton, we’re thrilled to get Coach Milanovich back to Edmonton, and for me to get him back into my football journey. Obviously, insanely disappointed (I didn’t get to play with him this year), he’s someone that I really, really look up to and I look forward to playing for for years to come. He’s been a mentor and coach and somebody that I really look to in terms of when I would get a text from him after he’d watch a game on TV and he’d tell me he’s proud of me or he watched and it was awesome. It was always something that I really appreciated. I think Zach would probably attest the same thing of Scott in terms of the football mind that he is and the way that he goes about his craft in terms of coaching. He does a really good job of getting the most out of his players and I think in that way he’ll be able to get the most out of us in Edmonton as well.”
– Harris on the disappointment of not being able to play under Scott Milanovich in 2020
“It seems like every time I turn on the TV there’s another Canadian receiver playing and making a big name. It’s nice to see and it just shows that the game is growing here and hopefully we’ll see more of it. We have a lot of talent here, it just feels like a lot of the time we haven’t been able to showcase it or we just haven’t gotten the same looks as the American guys get. I think we’re heading in the right direction and people are really starting to see that if we just get an opportunity, we can make a big splash.”
– Durant on the abundance of Canadian receivers doing well south of the border
“Outside of the couple hours a day I get to train throughout the week, there isn’t really anything else we do other than spend family time. Try to go on at least one walk a day in the neighbourhood, try to walk a couple miles. It’s getting more difficult now because of how cold it is but just trying to figure out something we can do to get out of the house and be active. Just spending a lot of time with the family. Our daughter is right on the verge of being able to crawl, she’s so close, that everyday I try to get on the ground with her and show her how to crawl. That’s kind of what I’m doing these days.”
– Arbuckle on how he’s been keeping busy in 2020
“As far as off the field relationships, yes, moreso being able to form any kind of chemistry on the field just because we can’t really get on the field, run route and work out together and stuff like that. I’ve been able to have a good relationship with some of these guys. Just being able to talk and text and I really keep up with what RJ (Harris) is doing, he’s doing some really cool stuff down in the U.S. with training kids and stuff. That’s something that I would do when I was in the U.S., that’s something that I really like to keep up with. He also has a young daughter and so he’s helped me with some parenting tips. I get to go in and workout at the same time as (Antoine) Pruneau. Me and Pruneau get to talk a lot. We have a video game league that me and some of the players are in so we get to communicate through that and compete with each other and build some relationship that we’re trying to keep going. We’re doing what we can at a distance. A lot of the players aren’t here in Ottawa so it’s hard to do anything in person especially with the protocols that COVID brings. We’re just really hoping to get on the field together and start practicing and working out and training and doing some volunteer work during the off-season once the holidays are over.”
– Arbuckle on developing relationships with his teammates
“I think really this extended off-season, as I like to refer to it, for me has been more on really focusing on how my body can heal best. You can choose to look at it as a negative but also you can look at it in a positive way. I’ve really done the most treatment on my body this off-season, minus the little restrictions. I’m doing little things that I haven’t really done in the off-season, body-wise, and just like Lamar too, the challenge that this year has brought to all professional athletes, specifically us in the CFL and everyone in the world, is that it forces everyone to be more creative with their time and find different ways to be productive. For myself, like Lamar, and I’m sure Nick will say the same, you start to focus on different things that go beyond the game. For myself, I’ve always been an advocate of that. I know on every team that I’ve been on I always try to mentor some young guys and try to encourage them as much as you love the game, as much as you’re passionate about the game, also think about what else are you passionate about? Because everyone on this call really knows that football is one of those games, you never know when your last game is going to be. You can’t predict that at all but preparation for what’s to come after is something that you have to start before your last game.”
– Muamba on the positives of not playing in 2020