May 18, 2023

Quick Hits | Training Camp – Day 5

Notes and quotes from Day 5 of Blue Bombers training camp…

TO HELL AND BACK: Blue Bombers cornerback Demerio Houston was in the midst of a breakout campaign last summer — he had dressed for 11 games, including nine straight starts — when his season went up in smoke in a home win over the Calgary Stampeders.

Naturally, then, there is a certain amount of joy he’s getting from simply being back on the field with his teammates and competing for starting work in a crowded secondary.

“Man, it feels amazing, especially missing the rest of last season and then having to go into the offseason building my body back up. It’s just amazing to be back healthy and back on the field,” said Houston after practice on Thursday. “I felt like I was playing at a very high level and that I had earned the trust of my coaches and teammates that I was in the right position to make plays and help my team win.

The injury was a major setback. It could have been an injury that ended my career or maybe caused me to miss this camp. The training staff and my trainers back home definitely helped me prepare myself to help me be 100 percent for camp.”

Houston worked his backside off to try and get healthy again, and had hoped to be an option for the club for the Grey Cup. Watching that defeat — after not dressing for the 2021 championship — was a difficult moment. But he vowed to be a good teammate during his recovery and right up to the final game of 2022.

“I just had to make sure I was staying focussed and engaged with the team,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure I would be ready to go back into the rotation if they needed me. It was hard, especially when you’re not seeing yourself on the screen… it can be hard to watch others.”

Houston’s ability to play all spots in the secondary is one of his best strengths, as is his familiarity with the defence.

“He’s in the mix,” Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said of Houston. “Last year with all sorts of things going on we ended up with a lot of guys that you feel real good about in terms of putting them out there and then communicating and fitting with the group and getting the job done. We’re fortunate there to have the number of players we have that we feel that good about. He’s certainly one of them.”

FYI: Veteran defensive tackle Jake Thomas arrived midway through Thursday’s session and spent the next 10 minutes hugging it out with teammates and coaches.

O’Shea on DB Evan Holm, who appeared in nine games last year — four of them starts: “As good feet as you’ll ever see on a DB. Fast. Athlete. Quick. But his feet are great.”

Not practising Thursday were: LBs Adam Bighill and Jesse Briggs, DE Jackson Jeffcoat, RBs Brady Oliveira, Johnny Augustine and Jonathan Rosery.

Safety Brandon Alexander told reporters Thursday he had added 15 pounds. Asked what he’s seen from him, O’Shea said:

“The usual. He flies around, he’s moving people in the right spots. Obviously we can’t hit in camps, so you can’t see that great part from him. But he’s always the leader.” Alexander should also benefit from a full offseason of recovery after making his first start last year in September following offseason surgery.

“With those types of injuries, for sure, there’s a point where you feel really good and you know you can play,” said O’Shea. “And then another little while later you go, ‘Oh, that’s what feeling good is.’ Then after a year what you thought feeling good was and being able to play at six months (after surgery), that year goes by and now it’s this is what feeling good is. Guys like him can play at a certain stage and then after a year it’s quite noticeable how much better they feel.”


PIVOTAL REPORT: Towson State QB Tyrrell Pigrome had a good session Thursday. He’s in the battle for the No. 3 QB job behind Zach Collaros and Dru Brown with another rookie, Josh Jones of UNC-Pembrooke.

And here’s the head coach on Pigrome: “Super athletic. Really, really athletic. When you watch him run it’s just effortless. He’s gliding around. He can throw a heavy ball. He just has to get some experience, see more plays, get more reps… those kind of things. It’s really hard to evaluate guys this early, especially at that position.”