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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

THE TUESDAY MORNING GOALIE


TRAINING CAMP AND SPORTS NOTES:

- SASKATOON:  It was a wonderful day for football on Day 2 of 2015 Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp on Monday at Griffith's Stadium.  The sun was shining and the temperature hovered around 22 degrees Celsius with a light northwest wind at 16 km/h for both workouts.  There were about 60 Rider fans in attendance for the morning practice and about double that number in the afternoon.  Here are some observations:

- The Roughriders have staged four practices so far at Griffith's Stadium but have yet to wear pads.  One of those was a walk-through Sunday morning.  That's a far cry from what we're hearing out of B.C. where the Lions are banging in full pads and they're suffering some injuries.  While head coach Corey Chamblin's workouts have been intense, they've been easy on the body.  They haven't been easy on the mind though.

- Back in '99 the players walked from the dorms to the meeting rooms and cafeteria and back without a whimper. Now they're begging Rider fans through social media to loan them bikes.  That's the way the world is nowadays.  I'm just glad I witnessed the last of the old school, hard-nosed days.  Scrivener, Lazeo, Narcisse, etc.

- That's a far cry from my first season as voice of the Roughriders in 1999 when head coach Cal Murphy had them crashing and pounding in full pads for all of their two-a-day workouts.  The team stumbled to a 3-15 record that year but it wasn't likely due to the physical training camp.  They just weren't very good.  However as Chamblin noted on Monday, the game has evolved.

- Quarterback Darian Durant continues to get the bulk of the reps with the first team offense as he gets acclimated to new offensive coordinator Jacques Chapdelaine's new playbook.  Things were a lot sharper from Day 1 to Day 2, and the club appears to be on a good pace.  Chamblin stated between the workouts that "everyone knows you don't win a Grey Cup on Day 1."

- Third-year veteran quarterback Tino Sunseri appears upbeat and accepting of his role as the #3 quarterback.  He was sharp on Monday, throwing a 45-yard arc to Ryan Smith and following it up with a completion to Naaman Roosevelt in a tight window.  On the next play, he put the ball on the numbers of first round pick Nic Demski but he dropped it.  However Demski's talents and place on the roster continue to be unquestioned and he'll settle in before long.  Rookie jitters perhaps.

- The veteran receivers took turns making eye-popping plays including diving grabs by Taj Smith and Scott McHenry (the latter of which was noted as the Play of the Day by the Rider PR staff).  However Rob Bagg dropped the first pass of the morning skelly drill.

- Many are asking about the status of slotback Jamel Richardson as he continues to recover from a severe leg injury.  He seemed to be moving a lot better on Monday but still doesn't seem to trust the leg.  Coach Chamblin said between the workouts that J-Rich needs to get back into shape and that he doesn't want him to begin a coaching career just yet.

- Many have also asked about the battle at the centre position.  Veteran Dan Clark continues to work with the 1's and by all accounts, his play has been admirable.  However Corey Watman is nipping at his heels, but sailed a snap over Sunseri's head early on on Monday.  It was before stretching, so perhaps he wasn't warmed up sufficiently.

- Returnees Xavier Fulton and Levy Adcock are the American offensive tackles and continue to be in the first grouping.  However they're being pushed by rookie imports Randy Richards and Michael Phillip.  Richards in particular.

- Former B.C. Lions centre and two-time Grey Cup champion Angus Reid is a guest coach with the Roughriders in this training camp.  He hasn't been afraid to jump in and provide vocal support for new offensive line coach Dan Dorazio.  I asked him for an assessment of the Riders' O-line at this point.

"Everything looks good right now," Angus cautioned.  "The thing is you're going to see a different looking offensive line from a scheme perspective.  It's taking these guys a little longer to learn a new system, if you will, but what I will say is you got guys here who are willing to work their butt off and always try their best.  They're not questioning or fighting the system and that's what you need.  I think by the end of camp you'll see a well-oiled machine and I'm really excited to watch this group this year."

- I asked Angus how Lions GM Wally Buono would feel about him helping out with the rival Roughriders.  He quipped, "Hey, the Lions didn't call me!"

- Canadian running back Jerome Messam continues to work with the first team offense and makes for a tantalizing option as a ratio-buster.  However Corey Chamblin isn't prepared to annoint him just yet.

"I'll tell you what," the head coach said on Monday.  "We have enough guys with Canadian status that nobody gets a leg up there, and that's with all positions.  The best football player will play.  We can't play you because of where you're from.  We know there has to be a limit but we're going to play the best guys that fit.

"Jerome is a good football player but in the past I think that he's just been average with what he's done.  I've told him that and at this point I'm looking for a breakout year from Jerome Messam."

- 2015 draftee Melvin Abankwah and returnee Steven Miller got the primary work on punt return drills on Monday morning.  Will Abankwah carry a scarlet letter due to his positive PED test at the CFL Combine?  Not likely, at least by the Riders.  He appears to be getting every opportunity to make the team but the coaches are leaning on him.  Receivers coach Jermaine Copeland barked, "Melvin - you shoulda had that one!" during individual drills.

Nic Demski, left, warms up beside Abankwah
- Veteran defensive backs Paul Woldu and Weldon Brown have been solid in camp with more than their share of knockdowns.

- With the departure of cornerback Rod Williams to Montreal and the move of Weldon Brown to halfback, there appears to be two spots open in the linebacking core (one being due to the loss of Brian Peters).  CKRM football analyst Luc Mullinder feels rookies Telvion Clark and Jeff Knox are ahead there.

- Clark came up with the first interception of the morning, tipping a Darian Durant pass into the air and coming down with it.

- The first team on defense during one 12-on-12 session had, on the line, Alex Hall, Tearrius George, Rory Connop and John Chick.  At linebacker were Shea Emry, Telvion Clark and Marrio Norman.  In the secondary were Marshay Green, Weldon Brown, Keenan MacDougall, Macho Harris and Tristan Jackson.  MacDougall was getting reps at safety due to an injury to All-Star Tyron Brackenridge.

- Middle linebacker Shea Emry is a two-time Grey Cup champion with Montreal (both coming in Grey Cups against Saskatchewan) and he's skipping between drills with an ear-to-ear grin on his face.  The UBC product came over this winter from the Argos in a trade for Ricky Foley.  Emry truly seems to be enjoying himself and I asked him how he feels to finally be in the good books of the Rider Nation.

"You know when I got traded here I thought there was no better place to play," Emry said on Monday.  "As a defensive player, when we're at home and the crowd is able to go nuts, I'm just so stoked about that first moment when I'm out there and can feed off the energy.  Villain or not, I'm on your team now and I just can't wait."

- There were plenty of news stories generated on Monday about the tragic death of Tyron Brackenridge's daughter. Out of respect for the family, I'll leave it alone other than to offer our condolences and prayers.  I'm not comfortable publicizing it and can't figure out how others could be.  Empathy.

- The frontrunner for the inaugural Terrance Nunn Award for training camp MVP appears to be punter Ray Early out of Furman.  He continues to boom 55-yard punts and is benefitted by the bullet snaps of Jorgen Hus.  But we can't have the camp MVP be a punter, can we?

- Terrance Nunn was a receiver out of Nebraska who spent quality time with the New England Patriots before landing in Saskatchewan as a CFL rookie in 2011.  In training camp in Regina, he looked like the second coming of Michael Irvin but once he got his chance in about Week 6, he couldn't tie his own shoelaces.  We're having some fun with this award on the SportsCage, and will keep a running tab on who the frontrunner is as camp goes along.

- From our vantage point in the press box, it was tough to see if the field goal attempts split the uprights but they were all close and had the distance.  The kickers appeared in this order: Chris Milo, Hugh O'Neill and Ray Early.  They attempted from 24, 32 and 37 yards and the holders, in order, were Weston Dressler, Rob Bagg and Alex Pierczalski.

- I see the Riders no longer specify what players' injuries are on their daily reports out of training camp.  Frankly I'm surprised it took this long.

- CFL referee Tim Kroeker came out for the afternoon session and lined up in various places on the field, calling penalties.  They were generally disregarded however, as the line of scrimmage never moved.  Still, he was communicating with coaches after the practice on what he saw and how the new rules will be implemented.  The new rule where the five interior linemen on punt cover can't move until the ball is kicked is barely noticeable partly because of Ray Early's towering punts, and also the speed of the men on the units.  They're downfield in a flash.

- Interesting that Corey Chamblin noted they tried to acquire Kevin Glenn LAST year, before the 2014 season "but it didn't work out".  I think every team looked into Kevin's availability but only one was willing to pay the asking price and that was BC on draft day.  The other seven teams had all winter to get serious abouting attaining KG.

Tim Kroeker gets ready for the afternoon workout
- The Roughriders will be back on the field for a walk-through on Tuesday morning at 9:45.

- Over in Winnipeg, Blue Bombers' second round pick Addison Richards out of the University of Regina has missed the first two days of training camp with an undisclosed injury.

- Our spy at Calgary Stampeders training camp says the Red & White may be suffering from a Grey Cup hangover.  It will be interesting to see how they start the year.

- The Montreal Alouettes have been forced indoors the past two days due to bad weather.

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JUST NOTES:

1 - SASKATOON FINE DINING:  Anybody from Regina who makes a trip to Saskatoon just has to make a stop at Fuddrucker's World's Best Hamburgers and Luc Mullinder and I did just that on Monday evening.  The 2/3 lb bacon cheddar burger was just the perfect size but I probably could have stuffed down the one pounder.  However the girgling in my guts as I write this tells me otherwise.  We've got several spots on our list before training camp's over including Great Buffet of China, State & Main and the world's best Earl's.

Where can a guy get a good steam in this town?

2 - ACCOMMODATIONS:   On Jim Hopson's recommendation, Luc and I are shacked up at The Colonial on 8th Street (separate rooms!).  It's an older place and the people coming and going are certainly interesting but there's a Tim Hortons a block away so I'm happy.  The Colonial is a cozy place with a good working air conditioner and three restaurants on site.  Good call Hoppy!  It's been a good home away from home.

3 - THE NEST:  I was remiss in not mentioning in the MMG about the brand new piano bar on South Albert St. owned by my good friend Delbert Dunn.  It's called The Nest Piano Bar & Good Eats and they had their grand opening Saturday night.  It's a classy joint and the guy tickling the ivories is a retired Los Angeles cop who moved here because his lady friend is from Regina.  They've got everything you could imagine on their menu from chicken & ribs, to steak, to seafood, to pasta.  It's definitely worthwhile to check out!  Some of the honoured guests on Saturday included Tom Robinson and Suzanne Siller, Ron Nugent, Gary Uhren, Bacardi Bob Reiger, Brian Melby, Francis Bast, Steve Patrick, Carm Carteri and a host of others.

4 - #9:  Regina Pats and New York Islanders great Clark Gillies has long been an idol of mine and it was a treat to MC the Cougar Mens Hockey Alumni dinner featuring Clark and Bob Bourne last Thursday at the Travelodge.  We've heard Gillies' stories at least a thousand times but he threw a few new ones in there as well.  Regarding the NHL changing the format of the 1984 Stanley Cup final to a 2-3-2 format to favour the Edmonton Oilers (and hinder the Isles' chances of equalling Montreal's five straight Stanley Cups), Gillies said, "I'll refrain from punching former NHL President John Ziegler in the face.  He's 85 years old now!  But I'd still like to".  It will be interesting to see who the Cougar Alumni get as next year's speaker.  I'm betting on Marty McSorley.  We haven't had an Oilers great yet.

5 - MORE HOCKEY TALK:  Some of you will remember my friend John Meissner, the former broadcaster for the Portland Winterhawks and Tampa Bay Juniors.  He's been on the SportsCage before when we broadcast from Florida.  I promised that I'd include in the column this morning that John has relocated to Wenatchee, Washington as the voice of the Wenatchee Wild who've been granted a franchise in the BCHL.  The move was announced Monday.  The Wild are the first American-based team in the BCHL since Bellingham in 1995.  Congratulations Johnny! ... Meanwhile over in Lethbridge, the Hurricanes Board failed to reach the minimum 75% vote required to sell the community-owned team to private ownership (likely former Hurricane and longtime NHLer Kris Versteeg).  They voted last night. What a head-shaker.  Oh well, once the team's bankrupt - which surely won't be long - Versteeg will get it for a song and hopefully keep it in the 'Bridge.

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FROM ROUGHRIDERS PR:

The following is the Day 2 report from the 2015 Roughrider Training Camp.

ROSTER MOVES 
N/A
         
INJURED/DID NOT PARTICIPATE:                                
International DB Terrell Maze (day-to-day)
International S Tyron Brackenridge (day-to-day)
International LB Phillip Steward (day-to-day)
National DL Levi Steinhauer (week-to-week)
National DL Brandon Tennant (week-to-week)          

OVERVIEW
It was the first full two practice day of this year’s training camp. The coaches ran the players through their paces for a two hour and 15 minute workout in the morning before running an hour and 15 minute afternoon practice.

The afternoon practice was played under 23-degree sunny skies with a 23 km/h northwest wind.

PLAY OF THE DAY
Veteran receiver and Saskatoon native, Scott McHenry made a diving catch across the middle on a pass from quarterback Kevin Glenn during the teams period.

Later, first year defensive back, Junior Mertile jumped in front of a pass for a would be interception return touchdown to respond for the defence.

QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Yesterday we had those two practices, a lot of guys were frustrated because they set the standard high, we want to win the Grey Cup, but what they have to understand is that you don’t win the Grey Cup on day one. There’s a process to get there and once the guys went back we got the frustration out and we learned from those mistakes. Either you have a good rep or you have a rep that you learn from.” Head Coach Corey Chamblin

FAN ACCESS
Select players will be available to fans for autographs along the west fence line following the afternoon practices throughout the week.

TUESDAY
Players and coaches will hit the practice field at Griffiths Stadium for Day 3 of training camp with two on field sessions. The first walk through session will take place at 9:45 am, while the afternoon practice will run from approximately 3:00-4:55 pm.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is incredible reporting/analysis Roddy. Time for a raise, as I am sure it took a while to compile your thoughts and get some from Luc as well.

Just bought six tickets for my family to see the Riders play in Edmonton July 31. Can't wait for the season to get going!!

Aaron

Anonymous said...

Tremendous coverage Rod. I hope you know how much 95% of us in Rider Nation appreciate what you do. Go Riders!!!

Anonymous said...

With the rule changes on punts, there will be lots of points to be had. Having exceptionally skilled returners is of course key. But what may be as important is having an outstanding punter and snapper. If this means an import punter, then so be it. Teams will no longer get buy with mediocre or inconsistent punters in the CFL. That being said, an explosive offense that can get as many first downs as possible is the best way to deal with Chris Williams and Speedy Banks this year.

Old Hank

Anonymous said...

Can they pay you just to write blog posts like this every day? Amazing!

Ryan

Rafal said...

Great job on daily coverages Rod, (separate rooms!), hahaha!
Planning to make a trip to Regina this summer to see the Grand Old Lady Mosaic again before the wrecking ball hits her, and watch Canada's Team kick @ss again, can't wait!

Parkside said...

Yikes, the Colonial? A far cry from the the Parktown. Oh well, maybe we'll see you at the Copper Mug for a cold one!

Anonymous said...

YOU SUCK PEDERSEN!!!

There, just had to get that out of the way because someone always has to seemingly say it.

Great writeup.

McSorley an Oiler great?? HAHAHAHA!!

Anonymous said...

Seriously? The Colonial? CKRM must not have much of a budget for even half decent accommodations. You deserve better than that, Roddy.

Rod Pedersen said...

I could've stayed on the top floor of the Bez. But I only need what I need.

Anonymous said...

Very impressive attitude about your location. You wrote about some of positive features (3 restaurants close by). It's also a short bike ride to griffiths for you and Luc if you had bikes. Thanks for the lesson in class. I also needed the lesson in humility. A big shout out to the Colonial for their hospitality to you and Luc.
Today I am going to be a better person.

Anonymous said...

Hey Roddy,

Holiday Inn Downtown is by far the greatest hotel in Sask now. Brandy new, every room is a suite room and a great bar. Also, you have to eat at Ayden Kitchen and Bar....the best burger you'll eat...don't get me wrong Fudruckers is good...but Ayden is just that much better.

Jim N.

Tarcy said...

Rod,

A friendly tip. Do NOT eat at the Great Buffet. I used to work there.

I repeat: do NOT eat at the Great Buffet.

Randy said...

Where can I find the best cheese burger in Toon town?

Anonymous said...

As long as Rod has his iPod full of George Strait he could stay at the Barry hotel. What a dive that place was.

Great column again today. Regina used to have a Fuddruckers but from what I understand the owners had their hand in the till and that's why it flopped. Regina needs a Smokes Poutinerie as well. And of course Hooters.


Dubya

CM said...

that's a great write up. thanks

Anonymous said...

Does the Colonial still have karaoke?

Anonymous said...

Very appreciative of the training camp reports, thank you Roddy. I also really liked the play by play of training camp on the cage yesterday, it was kinda neat. Thanks for all that you do for us readers and listeners.

Mike

Rod Pedersen said...

Thank you. You're welcome.

RP

Rod Pedersen said...

Thank you. You're welcome.

RP

Anonymous said...

Nice to hear your a humble man, good on you Mr. Pedersen.

Anonymous said...

Piano bar sounds interesting. Is it for seniors only?

Anonymous said...

Randy,
Remember, no shirt, no service in Saskatoon!

Bubbles

Anonymous said...

RP, the inaugural Terrance Nunn Award for training camp MVP seems like fun, but really, I believe you are jinxing the young player with that award.

After all, the award is really about who will be the biggest 'dud'; one who will look good in training camp yet fail horribly during the season.

Not sure why you would want to lay that distinction upon any of our new young players.

K

Rod Pedersen said...

It's all in fun. Please lighten up and take it for what it's worth!!

RP

Anonymous said...

In the real world, the only true Jinx is my cat!

Anonymous said...

Rod, maybe save your last comment for the player you choose to be the winner of the contest... It is he who might feel doomed and will have to take it all in fun!

As for me... hey, just a follower man... just a fan!

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ps., great job with the reporting in Saskatoon, for us out of province Rider fans, it is awesome!