Quick Hits | Training camp — Day 1

Quick Hits from Thursday and the first day of Blue Bombers main camp…

1. OPENING TAKE: The Blue Bombers had close to 100 players on the field Thursday afternoon as the club returned to work after the CFL and CFL Players’ Association agreed to terms on a new seven-year collective bargaining agreement.
And even though the rain and chillier-than-normal temperatures could have been a vibe killer, there was a palpable sense of energy on the field.

“It feels really good to be back out here running around,” said quarterback Zach Collaros. “It feels like we were just here. Another practice… a lot of new faces out there. It was exciting for those guys and obviously exciting for us to be back out here as well. It just feels good to be out there throwing the football around and competing.”
CFL players are expected to ratify the new CBA over night, and the club will be back at practice early Friday morning.
“Any time you’re not in control of the situation there’s some frustration that sets in,” said Collaros of having to wait while the first strike in the CFL since 1974 unfolded over the last few days. “But there’s a reason we elected the people we elected to lead us in the negotiations and they’ve done a great job and worked tirelessly at it. Between what they’ve done from a negotiation standpoint as well as just keeping us all in the loop as best they can given all the circumstances, hats off to those guys.”

2. SCHEDULE SHIFTING: One of the fallouts of the delay in the return to training camps impacts the Blue Bombers and their preseason schedule. The club was initially scheduled to be in Regina to face the Saskatchewan Roughriders this Monday. That game has now been moved to May 31st. The Blue Bombers will now open their preseason at home with the previously scheduled matchup with the Edmonton Elks on May 27th at IG Field.

There has been the suggestion the loss of a few days of camp will impact the new players the most, as it shrinks their opportunities to make the club. Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea refuted that after practice on Thursday.
“Making sure they got that second exhibition game added is important,” he said. “Even if there wasn’t preseason games like last year when there wasn’t, we were still able to evaluate and find some good players, especially on that weak side (of the secondary, where DeAundre Alford and Deatrick Nichols ultimately became CFL all-stars).
“If they practice well and play well and are engaged in the meetings, we’ll find ’em.”

3. PLAYING CATCH-UP: Labour laws in Alberta meant that the Calgary Stampeders and the Elks were able to continue practising while negotiations on the new CBA were unfolding. That naturally led to discussions about the advantages that might create.
“No, we’re not worried about that,” said linebacker Adam Bighill, one of the lead negotiators on the CFLPA. “We’ve got a great group and we work efficiently. We’ll make up for anything people will say we lost, but I’m not too worried about it at all.”

4. FYI: Not practising as they recover from offseason surgeries were safeties Brandon Alexander and Noah Hallett and offensive tackle Drew Richmond. Present but not participating was OL Pat Neufeld… P Tom Hackett was not in attendance; Hackett had returned home to Utah during the strike… Janarion Grant was getting a lot of work with the No. 1 receiving group, along with CFL vet Greg Ellingson and returning starters Rasheed Bailey, Drew Wolitarsky and Nic Demski… First impressions of Jalen Saunders as he made his return to the field were all positive… One more on receivers: BJ Muckelvene, a product of Wingate, carried over a solid rookie camp into Day 1 of main camp…Among the DBs spotted making interceptions today: Tyqwan Glass, the former Montreal-Edmonton vet, and Zach Hannibal… For those into the minutiae — both Ellingson and QB Dakota Prukop were working as holders for placekickers Ali Mourtada and Marc Liegghio… First rep of 12 v 12 at practice on Thursday saw Collaros hook up with Nic Demski for a 108-yard touchdown.

5. NOTABLE NUMBERS: Some numbers from the Blue Bombers training-camp roster:
-Canadians: 33
-Americans: 58
-Globals: 4

Numbers by position:
-Quarterbacks: 4
-Running backs/fullbacks: 8
-Receivers: 17
-Offensive line: 15
-Defensive line: 13
-Linebackers: 9
-Defensive backs: 25
-Kicker/punter: 3
-Long-snapper: 1
The long and the short of it:
-Tallest: Willie Jefferson, DE — 6-7
-Shortest: Marc Liegghio, P/K — 5-7
-Heaviest: Brandon Sanford, OT — 333
-Lightest: Ali Mourtada, K — 158
-Oldest: Stanley Bryant, OT — 35
-Youngest: Cole Adamson, DT — 23 (April 21, 1999)