Photo: The Canadian Press
At the start of any CFL season, the thought of what Bo Levi Mitchell might be capable of is one that’s full of possibility.
When he’s had essentially a year-and-a-half to get fully healthy, the possibilities feel like they could be endless. The two-time Most Outstanding Player had shoulder surgery after the 2019 season and while he planned to suit up for the 2020 campaign, the pandemic had different plans for all of us.
A silver lining to the dark cloud that’s been hanging over us for the last year is that it’s let Mitchell, 31, fully heal up while the cancelled season gave every player in the league a physical break from the punishment that football doles out on a game-by-game basis.
“Typically an off-season, the first month is recovery. Just stop doing anything, let your body heal a little bit,” Mitchell explained to Donnovan Bennett on The Waggle this week.
“Then usually the next month and a half, two months is just rehab, trying to fix things, reset the body. And then you’ve got about a month or two to kind of really push yourself to get in shape and feel good about training camp or whatnot. That’s just been so different now with 18 months without football. It’s been…(time to) allow everything to heal, allow everything to rehab, strengthen everything. It’s almost like a paralysis by over-analysis.”
Mitchell has had his Calgary home to himself this last little while with his wife and daughters in the States until July. So he’s had his teammate, Stampeders receiver Colton Hunchak, staying with him.
“I told him to come stay out here all day, let’s just push each other for the next month and make it tough and just keep our minds strictly on football,” Mitchell said.
“And it’s been good, man, just having a guy that I can throw it to every day. I can push myself as hard as I want to work out. But the one thing that the pandemic has shown me is the missing out on the workflow in the weight room with the guys on the field, pushing each other.
“It’s just a different aspect to having somebody else there doing that same workout and competing with each other. To me, that’s my favorite way to train. Me and Colton have really been pushing each other this last little while to make sure we come into training camp ready to go.”
Those training camp dates are scheduled to be rapidly approaching and when the Stamps do get back on the field, Mitchell and some of his longtime teammates will have two off-seasons’ worth of transactions and drafts to process.
“I think losing any vet in the CFL is really tough just because it’s a very veteran-driven league,” Mitchell said.
“If you can have a 75 per cent to 25 per cent ratio, that’s the young cats to make the vets feel a little bit younger and put that pep in their step, I feel like that’s when I’ve seen the best camaraderie in the locker room.
“I thought in 2018 we had that. In ’19 we were a little bit young, but the guys that we lost were key pieces that were very, very good vets for us.”
The retirement of defensive back Brandon Smith will be a tough one for the team to deal with, Mitchell said, citing his ability to quietly lead by example, though he’s excited to see what free agent signing Richard Leonard will bring to the team. He’ll also miss receiver Eric Rogers, who was traded to Toronto this winter.
“Eric Rogers was a heartbreaker because he’s a guy that’s been a catalyst in the playoffs, especially, for us,” he said. “A guy for those in-game situations that I’ve relied on many times, like Marquay McDaniel, Nik Lewis, those guys. He’s one of those names that sticks out when it comes to those big-time moments, when I’m throwing one of those 50-50 balls and he goes up and makes a play.”
Overall, Mitchell is just excited to have football on the horizon. That hit home for him recently when he stopped into the Stamps’ locker room.
“I love our team. I walked through the locker room the other day and the practice jerseys are up and (there are) names on the nameplates that I see and there are names that I don’t even know. So I’m excited to meet the new guys, the young guys and…getting the process going out there.
“The way we do things, the way we operate in Calgary, it’s definitely going to be different for some people. But that’s the way you make this team, is understanding that and fitting in and realizing what it takes for us to have the culture that we want here when it comes to football.”
It should be a well-rested, healthy and hungry group that takes the field at McMahon Stadium.