INJECT any CFL veteran with a truth serum and ask him about training camp and, to a man, they'll all say the same thing:
Good to see the guys again, but that daily grind -- from sunrise to sunset -- is a nasty (insert string of curse words here). All that said, every player would just as soon be playing than walking the picket line.
Even with a labour impasse looming, all nine CFL teams are expected to be on the field today with the hopes a deal can be reached ASAP.
Here's a brief look at some stories to keep an eye on here in Winnipeg and across the CFL map:
WHERE: Hillside Stadium, Kamloops, B.C.
CAMP CONFIDENTIAL: The Lions' draft-day deal to land veteran QB Kevin Glenn from Ottawa gives them the experienced depth they've been seeking behind Travis Lulay -- a key addition after B.C.'s West Semifinal flameout loss to the Riders last November. But, like all CFL teams, this will also be the start of a new season without some familiar faces on the left coast, including linebacker/DB Korey Banks and receiver Nick Moore (both to Winnipeg); both co-ordinators in Jacques Chapdelaine (Simon Fraser) and Rich Stubler (Calgary); QB Thomas DeMarco and veteran receiver Paris Jackson (both to Ottawa) along with the retirements of Buck Pierce, Ben Archibald and Angus Reid. The team did welcome back defensive tackle Khalif Mitchell and he will bring a ferocity to the defensive front.
QB DEPTH CHART: 1. Travis Lulay; 2. Kevin Glenn; 3. John Beck; 4. Chris Hart; 5. Travis Partridge.
WHERE: McMahon Stadium, Calgary.
CAMP CONFIDENTIAL: The Stamps have their fingers crossed Bo Levi Mitchell is their answer at quarterback after not protecting the injury-prone Drew Tate (who returns) and Kevin Glenn (now in B.C.) in the Ottawa expansion draft. Mitchell won all three of his starts last season and in six games total managed to complete over 70 per cent of his passes with a 10:3 TD-to-interception ratio.
Calgary also got hit in the Redblacks draft, losing Glenn, safety Eric Fraser and J'Micheal Deane while Dmitri Tsoumpas retired and Chris Randle was traded to Winnipeg.
QB DEPTH CHART: 1. Bo Levi Mitchell; 2. Drew Tate; Brian Hudson; Bryant Moniz.
WHERE: Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton.
CAMP CONFIDENTIAL: The Eskimos, like the local side here in Winnipeg, will be all about change during camp. There is a new head coach in Chris Jones and his staff; new faces in cornerback Patrick Watkins (Toronto), offensive linemen Justin Sorensen (Winnipeg), Andrew Jones (Toronto) and Akeem Foster (Winnipeg). At the same time, linebacker Damoso Munoz signed in the NFL (Tampa Bay) and linebacker T.J. Hill (Ottawa), defensive back Donovan Alexander (now in Winnipeg) and Chris Thompson were all released. Meanwhile, Canadian defensive tackle Ted Laurent may be soon landing in Montreal.
QB DEPTH CHART: 1. Mike Reilly; 2. Matt Nichols; 3. Jonathan Crompton; 4. Pat White: 5. Jacory Harris
WHERE: Griffiths Stadium, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon.
CAMP CONFIDENTIAL: The champs got their big, gaudy Grey Cup rings this week and now begins the process of trying to become the first team to repeat since the 2009-10 Alouettes knocked off the same Riders for back-to-back titles. Receiver Weston Dressler bolted for the K.C. Chiefs and running back Kory Sheets signed with the Oakland Raiders, leaving two big holes in the offence. Four key starters are also gonzo from the defence in Keith Shologan (Ottawa), Jermaine McElveen (Montreal) and linebackers Craig Butler (Hamilton) and Mike McCullough (retired).
QB DEPTH CHART: 1. Darian Durant; 2. Tino Sunseri; 3. Adam Weber; 4. Seth Doege; 5. Brandon Leyh
WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS
WHERE: Investors Group Field, Winnipeg.
CAMP CONFIDENTIAL: Where to begin? New coach, new starting QB, a ton of changes in the secondary, finding a replacement for Henoc Muamba (Indy Colts), revamped O-line... So, at this point, after all the losses and off-field firings/soap opera of the last year, Bomber fans would likely settle for some front-office stability and some signs -- any signs -- that this new crew can lead the franchise out of the sewer. It won't be easy, what with a switch to the West Division and so many question marks, but asking this fan base to be patient -- the last championship back in 1990 seems so long ago it seems it should be depicted by drawings on a cave wall -- was old 10 years ago.
QB DEPTH CHART: 1. Drew Willy; 2. Max Hall; 3. Brian Brohm; 4. Robert Marve; 5. Jordan Yantz
WHERE: Ron Joyce Stadium, McMaster University, Hamilton.
CAMP CONFIDENTIAL: Kent Austin made a quick fix of the Tabbies in Year 1 of his regime, taking his squad all the way to the Grey Cup. Now, given more time, it's expected Hamilton could morph into a perennial power in the East. They said so long to Henry Burris, but landed a star-in-the-making in Zach Collaros in free agency who, along with Dan LeFevour, give the Ticats an intriguing 1-2 punch at QB. Austin isn't afraid to make changes and recently whacked LB Brandon Isaac and receiver Onrea Jones while long-time centre Marwan Hage was scooped up in the Ottawa draft before retiring and having his rights traded to Calgary.
QB DEPTH CHART: 1. Zach Collaros; 2. Dan LeFevour; 3. Jeremiah Masoli; 4. Stephen McGee
WHERE: Coulter Field, Bishop's University, Sherbrooke, Que.
CAMP CONFIDENTIAL: The Als started to get a feel for what life might be like without Anthony Calvillo last season when he finished the year on the injured list. And now he's retired this will be the first camp without him in the picture for the first time since 1997. New coach, too, as veteran Tom Higgins is now the boss.
But there's already a buzz in Alouette-land about the addition of former NFL star receiver Chad 'Ochocinco' Johnson. He's become an instant media sensation -- example: when asked about translating "Ochocinco" to French: "It'll be huit-cinq, if you were to convert it, which I won't be doing any of that stuff. I'm just coming in as Johnson, which was when I was at my best."
Now the question is whether the 36-year-old still has game.
QB DEPTH CHART: 1. Troy Smith; 2. Tanner Marsh; 3. Alex Brink; 4. Collin Klein
WHERE: Keith Harris Stadium, Carleton University, Ottawa.
CAMP CONFIDENTIAL: Pity the poor folks in the nation's capital -- they get all giddy for the return of three-down football and now the dark labour cloud could put a damper on the return of the CFL. New coach Rick Campbell has some intriguing pieces, including QB Henry Burris (Hamilton) O-linemen Jon Gott and Deane (Calgary), Joe Eppelle (Toronto), defensive backs Jovon Johnson (Winnipeg) and Eric Fraser (Calgary), running back Chevon Walker (Hamilton) and linebackers Anton McKenzie (B.C.) and Malik Jackson (Calgary) that mean the Redblacks should be competitive from the first moment the ball is put on the tee.
QB DEPTH CHART: 1. Henry Burris; 2. Thomas DeMarco; 3. Corey Leonard; 4. Brandon Bialkowski.
WHERE: York Stadium, York University, Toronto.
CAMP CONFIDENTIAL: The Argos took some hits to their coaching staff in the off-season with Chris Jones (Edmonton) and Mike O'Shea (Winnipeg) bolting for head-coaching gigs. As well, Zach Collaros left for Hamilton in free agency, leaving Trevor Harris as the No. 2 QB behind Ricky Ray. But those losses were offset by the addition of OL Scott Mitchell (Edmonton) and LB Shea Emry (Montreal) -- both Canadians.
QB DEPTH CHART: 1. Ricky Ray; 2. Trevor Harris; 3. Mitchell Gale; 4. Casey Pachall; 5. Josh Portis
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