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June 10, 2016

BLOG: Preseason preamble

Training camp is often a bane for many veteran players. While walking through the suite level to lunch the other day, a player who has gone through many training camps told me “every year, they get a bit more annoying, but at least it’s a good group of guys.”

And that’s the truth.
We have long talked about character being an important piece to the direction we want this organization to head in. The 80-plus players we have in camp possess the qualities that Coach O’Shea looks for off the field – namely professionalism and politeness.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll do so again because in our first team meeting when camp opened, Mike addressed the team with a similar speech to last season.

“You’re not just evaluated on what you do on the field. Do you pick up a wrapper that you see you dropped on the floor? Do you hold the door open for the women in the building? Are you polite to the catering staff? These are all aspects of being a professional athlete. I watch it all,” he told the packed theatre. And does he ever.

Here are some observations from this chair, as we head into tonight’s preseason game:

IMG_8796Drew Willy.
I’ve raved about this guy for three years, and I’ll continue to do so. Not just because he is the ultimate pro and we work together on a daily basis, but because I know how hard he worked all offseason and how excited he was to get to camp this year. On May 20th, we were exchanging texts when he wrote out of nowhere: “I’m ready to go! Literally crazy excited to be back on the field.”

Not many outside of this building saw what he went through on many levels last season. A recent newspaper article brought up the idea of a legacy in a recent interview. He said afterwards, “I don’t care about any of that, I’m 29 years-old. I’m worried about winning the first game of the season.” Get those tickets and watch this guy play in 2016, I have a feeling he’s going to put on a show.

Trent Corney is a character.

He has quickly become a real likable guy around the facility and in the locker room. The biggest thing I see in Trent? His willingness to learn and watch the vets. His first day or two, he was in a meeting with his defensive line group and sat beside Louie Richardson, who feverishly took notes (as many players do). After Louie realized Trent hadn’t been taking any, Louie made him photocopy all of his own notes and take them home to study that evening. Trent’s been taking his own meeting notes every day since.


Underdogs

Jamaal WestermanI saw a report the other day from a couple of Regina radio personalities saying our club is “set up for heartbreak again.” Take that with a grain of salt, as they are after all from Regina, but that overall sentiment hasn’t been lost on our players. Publicly, they may not say they’ve heard or noticed, but trust me, it’s well known down here in football operations that nobody outside our building thinks we have a chance this season.

“So be it,” shrugged Jamaal Westerman.

The Scouts

All through training camp, our scouting department has been in Winnipeg. They set up shop right across the hall from my office, and the constant dialogue about players from all over North America blows me away. Every night, after we have removed a player from our negotiation list, I hear them discussing who should be placed in the vacant spot. All with different views, throwing ideas around based on what the GM or Head Coach, or both, have mentioned they would like to see.

Justin MedlockJustin Medlock.

I had heard what a pro he was, but sometimes people say that just to be nice. Not with Justin. This guy is a detail-oriented machine. I stood with him in the endzone a few days ago and talked for a while – he told me he was going to come to the stadium one night by himself and just kick all night. It’s not surprising he’s the most accurate kicker in CFL history – he concerns himself about absolutely every detail of a kick. He’s going to be another great addition for us.

The Schedule

A bit of an odd schedule for us in the preseason (although both games being televised is great), with a game tonight, and then another one in Ottawa on Monday. Like any away game, we will leave the morning prior to game day, so we’ll really only have a few days between the home and away preseason games. I know Coach O’Shea and his staff have been long preparing for how to best manage this in terms of seeing the guys they want to see but also getting the starters prepared. Injuries in the past few days of practices have muddied it a bit, but we’ll see how it all plays out.

 

Send me any ideas on Twitter for a behind-the-scenes read you’d like to hear about. I think I can speak for our entire organization when I say how excited we are to get this season underway. See you all at the game.


 

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