Like so many others around the world, I am still trying to wrap my head around everything that has happened over the last two months. It’s still hard to fathom, hard to believe, and hard to comprehend. But, as this week rolls into the next, the reality of the present state versus what should have been continues to hit home. This week, football was supposed to be back. Not just in the offices, putting together a roster or a game plan, but back on the field.
This sure isn’t how we expected the start of the 2020 season to be going, is it? Over the last few days, all CFL rookies would have been flying into Winnipeg and coming to the stadium, welcomed into the football ops area that would have been buzzing as new players trickled in.
With a somewhat lost and wide-eyed look on their faces, the rookies move about rather timidly at first, but the liveliness is unmistakeable – football would be back. Monday and Tuesday of this week would have been scheduled with equipment fittings, medicals and getting acclimated to the building and their new coaches and teammates.
Tomorrow (Wednesday), was to be the start of rookie camp, usually with one afternoon practice for all the CFL newcomers. The rookies have had some meetings in the morning, lunch at IG Field, then we would have headed out onto the field for the first practice of 2020. It’s always an exciting time for everyone, whether you work for the team, play, coach or cover it as a member of the media. Even though the veterans wouldn’t yet be in the building, Wednesday would have signified the return of football.
Rookie camp is usually only a few days long, with four more practices slotted over the following two days. During that time, all the veterans would begin to arrive and the chatter in and around the locker room would pick up significantly. You’d see a few veteran players wander out to practice to watch the rookies showcase their abilities before the official training camp would open on Saturday.
The first day of camp is medical testing day with our team doctors and Director of Health and Performance & Head Athletic Therapist, Al Couture. A full operations meeting takes place early in the afternoon, with each department taking turns speaking to the players about their expectations and procedures. Once that is complete, Coach O’Shea holds a team meeting and the season is officially underway.
The first Sunday of training camp is always one of the best days of the year. Even though we are about to embark on a three-week period of hectic schedules and long hours, the first practice day of camp is always special. Optimism is in the air for every team, and it’s the start of what you hope will be a long journey, ending in late November.
In past years, a few thousand people stream into IG Field and this Sunday would have been no different with a high in the 20’s. I write all this not to be doom and gloom, because we will get to this day eventually, but to appreciate all the steps in the process of getting to the last Sunday in November.
As a member of our football ops staff said the other day, “I would give anything to be standing outside, in the freezing rain of a late October, for a Day One practice right now.”
Last October that may not have sounded quite so pleasant, but everything has been but into a new perspective now.
We WILL see you again at IG Field for a game day, and what a celebration it will be. I know I am one of many at 315 Chancellor Matheson who thinks about that exact day often to help me get through this difficult time for us all. Stay safe, Go Blue and we really, really hope to see you soon.