Monday, May 25, 2015
MOSAIC PLACE MONDAY MORNING GOALIE
A BUFFET OF RIDER COVERAGE
- We are less than a week away from 2015 Saskatchewan Roughriders Training Camp presented by Coors Light in Saskatoon! The first workouts are scheduled for Sunday at Griffiths Stadium but rookies arrive in Regina on Tuesday for Rookie Camp on Wednesday and Thursday. During that period, the rookies will spend time with positional coaches learning the playbook and more about the CFL. The two day orientation will consist of classroom sessions and some on-field work so everyone is ready when camp officially starts Sunday at Griffiths Stadium. At this point, the Riders aren't sure how involved the on-field sessions will be so no decision has been made yet whether they'll be open to the public. Once a decision has been made, the news will be reported here and on my Twitter feed at @sportscage.
- A soldout field of golfers took part in Friday's 2nd Annual Getzlaf & Friends Charity Golf Classic at Long Creek Golf & Country Club in Avonlea, hosted by Rider slotback Chris Getzlaf. Former Rider Scott Schultz and I broadcast the SportsCage live from the clubhouse and had one of our best shows of the year, welcoming several current Riders onto the 620 CKRM airwaves. Here are some of their comments as we get ready for the season:
WR ROB BAGG
HOW WAS YOUR OFF-SEASON?
RB: It was great. I spent a lot of time with the family in Kingston and that was great. But as soon as you get into April and the flowers start to come out, you get that itch. The entire family's excited to get out to Regina. It's the best summers for the kids to get to come out to football games in Regina and enjoy the beauty that is Saskatchewan. Can't wait to get it fired up. It's different this year for my kids because they're starting school in French Immersion back home so they'll know more French than me probably by the end of September. They're excited about that. It'll definitely be different not having them around.
WHAT'S YOUR PREP FOR THE SEASON BEEN?
RB: I just got in on Wednesday. Just put in a couple of workouts but the main core of guys that were here working all off-season were Dressler, Macho Harris, Weldon Brown and a few guys who you can tell have been working hard. Dan Farthing does a great job getting guys ready and I think Darian is coming in this weekend so I just can't wait to run routes with him and get that chemistry back. Talking with Weston, for whatever reason, it just feels like it's going to be a special season. I'm not sure why yet, but I hope in November we'll be able to look back and say it was. I'm at that age now where every season is that much more special and I think it's going to be the best year yet.
WERE YOU SATISFIED WITH DURANT'S ELBOW IN FLORIDA?
RB: Yah I thought he looked great and that was even five weeks ago. As a guy who's come back from injury, every week, every day that you get further from it, you continue to improve. I expect him to be, as much as you said 'satisified' with him, I expect him to bring it even more in training camp. He's the type of guy that's relentless in his preparation and with his work ethic and I think throughout the first half of the season, you might be pumped with how he looks in Week 1 but he'll be so much better by Week 9.
ARE YOU BIG ON A FAST START?
RB: It's all about what you do at the end of the year but you can certainly position yourself better early. We've all seen how important it is to host the Western Final. If you can get that bye, guys that are banged up get extra time. Those things add up. You don't win the Grey Cup at the beginning of the year but you can certainly position yourself for those games later in the season. We'll have to play well, obviously, because you can't afford a bad start.
RB ANTHONY ALLEN
HOW WAS THE OFF-SEASON?
AA: I've been here since January. I kind of wanted to embrace the town and embrace the winter. I survived. Every day was literally the coldest day of my life. Every day. But I made it through. I was just around town and showing my face. The Rider Nation does a great job of letting you know that you're known here. It was fun. It was a fun off-season.
I'm feeling good. I've been down here training with guys like Weston and Weldon. It takes me a good two months after a season to get feeling good. I take a month off from everything, and then the next month is working out and I start feeling places on my body I wasn't able to feel before. It takes awhile to get your body back as a running back but that's what you sign up for. You don't think about when you're trying to dodge a tackle. You're trying to make 'em miss and score a touchdown.
ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RIDER FANS AND RAVENS FANS
AA: It's different throughout the towns. In Baltimore, fans in the Ravens Nation are like 'He's a Raven, so I'd better just leave him alone' where as with the Rider Nation, it's like 'Hey Anthony come over here! Let us help you out! We want to help you!' They're more hands-on here. They're not afraid to to talk to the players and interact with them. I'm very sociable so if you want to talk to me, I'll talk all day.
ON JOINING CAMP LATE LAST YEAR
AA: One thing about me is I'm good at learning playbooks so I learned the playbook fast but I hadn't played tackle football in a year and a half. It had been awhile so I had to get my body accustomed to it and I'd missed the first few days of camp. This year is way better. I have more momentum going into the season. I've been getting my body ready for an 18-game season.
WHAT'S THIS TEAM CAPABLE OF THIS YEAR?
AA: Everybody saw what we did last year without our starting quarterback. Everybody saw what we did last year when everybody knew what plays we were running. I don't wanna go into too much detail but with a new offensive and defensive system, with Durant back, with the new additions that we made, I'm so excited. This is the time of year that you get restless because training camp's right around the corner but it's not close enough. I think we're gonna do good.
ON DURANT IN FLORIDA
AA: When I went down there I wasn't expecting him to throw. I thought he was just going to do individual and a couple QB things but when I saw him show up for the 7-on-7's, the skellys and the half-skellys and he was zinging that thing like Darian does, I was excited. I went down there expecting the least out of him and he showed me the most. I was texting him right after saying, 'Hey bro when can we get together and throw?' I think I got too excited.
CB PAUL WOLDU
ON HIS FORMER TEAM THE ALOUETTES SIGNING MICHAEL SAM
PW: It'll go great. Most importantly he's a pretty good football player. That's what I get from it. From a football standpoint, GM Jim Popp goes out and tries to find players from all over the place. Whether they're Canadian, American or wherever, he does a pretty good job with his scouting department. He's obviously found a pretty good football player and Michael Sam will like the city of Montreal. There's a lot of culture and history and it's a pretty interesting city.
That's a pretty successful franchise, right? And they have been for years. It's obviously because of the things Jim Popp does. I don't think he's going to bring a guy in just to sell tickets. He might bring a guy in to help win football games AND sell tickets but he's never going to bring a guy in just to sell tickets. I don't think anybody can do that. It's a 'produce now' and 'what have you done for me lately' business we live in and that's all that matters.
ON HIS DESIRE TO START THIS YEAR
PW: I always find it's harder to be a back-up than it is to be a starter. You have to prepare like a starter without the reps. My last year in Montreal I started 11 games and the Eastern Final and I finally got into a rhythm and I swear it was easier to prepare when you're playing 40 or 50 plays on defense rather than waiting for your time. At the end of the day, that's the name of the game. Are you gonna tell me Tristan Jackson isn't one of the best out there? Of course he is. Brackenridge, Maze, Weldon Brown, we've got some studs out there.
SB CHRIS GETZLAF
ON THE ORIGIN OF THE GOLF CLASSIC
CG: It's just through friends and meeting people within the city but also meeting people who come from where my Dad grew up. I've had a relationship the last few years with Nelson GM in Avonlea and they approached me with an idea that was in the back of my mind at the same time and Children's Wish Foundation was a great fit. We were able to have a few Wish families out here this year and one of them talked and it's hard not to get emotional when that kind of talk is going on. To see the strength that they have, and what the wishes do for them is pretty inspirational.
DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO TRAINING CAMP?
CG: I look forward to training camp because it means you're getting into a new season. The actual part of the training camp, I don't know about that.
ON THE NEW 5-YARD CONTACT RULE ON RECEIVERS
CG: I think it's going to be a little bit difficult. They're really going to have to set the tone early to make sure that that's the way it's gonna be. When you make a rule, you've got to assume it's going to at least do something. If it takes away half of the contact, that's a win for me. With how much clutching and grabbing and actual physical contact there is 10 yards down the field, it's going to be great for receivers. I love it.
MONDAY QUICK HITS
- Hopefully you enjoyed those tidbits from Friday's interviews! It's great to get the players out of the football atmosphere and into a comfort zone away from the stadium. These types of interviews certainly allow us to get to know the players more. However it's done nothing but whet our appetite even more for the start of the new season! Once next Monday hits, it'll be wall-to-wall Rider talk in the SportsCage but until then we'll finish off our hockey coverage with Tiger Williams, Peter Loubardias, the Dumba's, etc.
- Several sports personalities were on hand in Avonlea to support Chris Getzlaf including his father Steve and teammates such as Weston Dressler, Weldon Brown, Alex Anthony, Chris Best, Scott McHenry (who turns 28 today), Alex Pierzcalski and Nic Demski. There were Rider alumni on hand such as Mike McCullough, Scott Schultz and Luc Mullinder and several hockey types including Keith Aulie of the Edmonton Oilers (who's married to a Getzlaf), Regina Pats personalities such as John Paddock, Mike Sillinger, Dave Struch, Gord Cochrane and former NHL referee Mick McGeough. It seems like this tournament will be around for several great years.
- You'll notice the old Gainer car was brought out of retirement for the Getzlaf event. It was actually awarded to Avonlea when they won the Riderville contest in 2010 as part of the Roughriders' centennial year celebrations. Former Calgary Flame Rhett Warrener once offered $100,000 for that car because the Frontier, SK product wanted to own it and drive it around Calgary. Perhaps the good folks of Avonlea will sell it to him.
- Winnipeg Rider fans: tune into TSN 1290 Radio today at 8:30 am MT (7:30 am Sask time) as I'll be chatting Riders and CFL with host Troy Westwood.
- One of the hot topics on Friday's show was the Alouettes' signing of DE Michael Sam. It was a great day for the CFL to have the first openly gay pro football player come to our league. However I'm still not convinved it's not something of a publicity stunt a la Chad Johnson or Ricky Williams. As for Sam, he's become something of a publicity machine himself and it'll prove to me how serious he is about his football career if he changes his Twitter handle from @MichaelSamNFL to @MichaelSamCFL.
- Wonder how the eastside at Mosaic Stadium will treat Michael Sam on September 27? In the past, nothing's been off limits.
- Last week's tour of New Mosaic Stadium was jaw-dropping. The sheer size of the facility is jaw-dropping and it's exciting to know they're 41% complete with construction. The PCL construction crew is unfazed by the enormity of the project given its $230-million budget (their figure). They don't go by the SIZE of the project but rather the budget and one official told me they've erected structures with a cost twice this amount. Still, they're very proud of what they're building here. And when another PCL official pointed out the exact spot where the Roughriders will run out onto the field, I got chills.
- Final thoughts on the sale of the Argos: Wednesday was a landmark day for the CFL, particularly in Toronto, even if it was overshadowed by the hiring of Mike Babcock by the Leafs. At least now if the Argonauts continue to hemmorhage money, they'll have the deep pockets of Bell and MLSE to keep them afloat. And even though they're Little Brother within that sports consortium, at least they'll benefit from the marketing machine rather than competing with it.
- Now they just have to get the Toronto soccer community to stop bitching about sharing their facility with a CFL team.
- Our condolences to the family of Jim McLeod, the long-time floor director of our television show In The Huddle on Access. Jim passed away last week, and will be sorely missed. We'll be sure to honour Jim during our season premiere episode from Saskatoon next week.
- Don't forget about the Regina Red Sox!! They opened their training camp on Saturday and will open the season at home to the Weyburn Beavers Friday night at Currie Field at 7:05 pm. Weather permitting, we'll broadcast the show from Currie Friday afternoon in advance of the game.
- Didn't watch too much hockey over the weekend so you'll have to forgive the absence of hockey commentary in this week's MMG. However there will be some NHL personalities in town on Thursday for the annual Cougar Mens Hockey Alumni fundraising dinner at the Travelodge. Islanders greats Clark Gillies and Bob Bourne will be in town as our honoured guests.
- And lastly, how can we forget Moose Jaw? We spent the weekend in the sleepy community next door and enjoyed some time at the Temple Gardens Mineral Spa. It certainly wasn't a first, but when I got out of that hot mineral water after a long soak on Saturday, all of my "general soreness" was gone! We didn't get much of a sleep however, as people were coming and going and slamming doors until 2 a.m. Saturday night. But you can get that at any hotel.
- Saturday evening we "restaurant-hopped' enjoying appetizers all over downtown Moose Jaw. Global's Derek Meyers joined us and as dusk fell, the TV sports anchor waved his arm and said, "If you just added mountains, you'd have Banff!" It certainly has a nice feel.
- It was pretty quiet in "The Jaw" Saturday night though. Folks were apologizing all over themselves for the lack of buzz, however that suited us just fine. We made a stop in the Crushed Can sports bar which is in the shadow of Mosaic Place. That was fun to sit out on the patio and visit. The best part is they have the old scoreboard from the actual Crushed Can hanging in the facility.
- One of our must-see destinations was Deja Vu, the famed wing and milkshake joint on High Street. All I can say is, if you're going, allot a good hour-and-a-half. It was lined up out the door but that speaks to their popularity. Their wings are huge and they boast 60-some different flavours which are drizzled across the chicken parts. I opted for Buffalo Dill and Wild Wild West Texas, but steered clear of the "Cody Beach" flavouring. My guess was that it was overrated!!
THAT'S ALL! SEE YOU IN THE CAGE AT 4 PM