POSTCARDS AND A NOTEBOOK FROM FLORIDA
1 - A brisk two-hour workout marked the third and final day of the 2016 Saskatchewan Roughriders annual spring minicamp in Vero Beach, FL. As the players and coaches will attest, it was likely the finest session of the three days and now the 100-plus players are headed back to their various homes across the U.S. and Canada.
2 - Rider Head Coach & GM Chris Jones was happy with Day 3, and the overall productivity of the camp. "It's the hump day when you have a couple of two-a-days and then a third one in a row where guys might not be able to make it through practice or mentally it defeats them," Jones said. "So it's good to be able to evaluate exactly where they are physically and mentally. I thought it was a really athletic camp. I thought there was a lot of guys who carried their skill to the field. The quarterbacks did an outstanding job of getting them in and out of the huddle and delivering the football. I thought the coaches drove the guys hard and overall I'm really pleased."
3 - Darian Durant's off-season workouts in Atlanta proved to be very worthwhile. He was deadly accurate and polished which wasn't the case the past few minicamps in Bradenton, FL. He even displayed the Peyton Manning- or Kent Austin-like trait of being visibly frustrated when a player dropped a well-thrown pass.
"No doubt about it," Durant commented. "This game was taken away from me for almost two years and when (a dropped pass) happens, you have to take each and every play as if it's your last. If my last throw is a throw on the money and a guy drops it, I don't want to be remembered walking off the field in a loss or making a bad play."
4 - It truly seems like a new, refreshed or even reborn Darian Durant. He's always given off the vibe that he's having fun on the field, but now he's "stopping to smell the roses" so to speak. After workouts this week here at Dodgertown, Durant was seen greeting fans and posing for photos. That's a new thing for him as he approaches his 11th CFL season.
"I know," Durant smiled. "It's a part of it. That's what being part of Rider Nation and being in this position is all about. I embrace every part of what's on-field, off-field or in the community. It all comes with it and I enjoy it. I'm just having fun and enjoying every moment. I'm going to be a little more active on social media as well and enjoy the ride because when it's over, it's over. I don't want to look with back with any regrets.
"We all know when you get up in your 30's, your career is winding down a little bit. I don't want to look at it that way but that's the reality. I want to enjoy these next 10 years if I can."
5 - To the evaluations: Earning multiple checkmarks on Wednesday were OL Kamalie Mathews (Murray State), QB David Watford (Hampton), WR Michael Campbell (Temple), DL Jabari Hunt (Georgia Tech), Dl Josh Kaddu (Oregon), DB Justin Cox (Mississippi State), DB Shelton Johnson (Wisconsin) and OL Tre'Von Armstead (Baylor). Earning an "X" were WR Randy Roseway (St. Francis Xavier), QB Shane Austin (Hawaii), WR Braylon Bell and LB Dillon Grondin (Windsor Jr.). Those erros were tracked from dropped passes, passes in the dirt or being beat in one-on-ones.
6 - WR Marquez Clark - former Atlanta Falcon - was, to me, the most eye-popping receiver in the workouts and I wouldn't be surprised to see him brought to training camp in Saskatoon. The defensive players on the sidelines were shouting, "They always throw to 88!" That drew extra attention from the defenders on the field but he still found a way to get open and catch passes. Many catches were of the spectacular variety.
7 - For good reason, the Roughriders won't release the results of their physical testing which includes the 40-yard dash, vertical, shuttle and 3-cone drills. Why? Because if a player isn't signed, they don't want their efforts in recognizing and evaluating him being open to the football world. Makes sense to me.
8 - Rider fans will be in love with the offense under new coordinator Stephen McAdoo. From a basic level to the naked eye, there's a penchant to roll the quarterback out of the pocket which fans have been clamouring for for years. That also suits Darian Durant's talents well, so long as his Achilles tendon holds up and he assures us there's no issues there.
The overall cohesion of the coaching staff is evident as well and that's the benefit of the entire staff moving over from Edmonton. The right hand knows what the left hand is doing, and vice versa. Over the past few minicamps the Riders were getting used to new coordinators and how those coaches relate to the Head Coach. That's not the case here and they truly have hit the ground running.
9 - There's no other spot to mention this so I will here -- we were very disappointed with Expedia with regards to organizing the trip to Vero Beach. First off, I was double booked for the flights and therefore double-billed. Then, once we got to Orlando on Saturday there was no record of my rental car booking with Alamo. Otherwise I would've gone with Avis, which I always do. And Expedia said there were no hotels in Vero Beach so we were shuttled off to La Quinta which was 24 miles south in Fort Pierce, FL. The locals were baffled why were stuck out in the boonies by I-95, especially when there were plenty of hotels in Vero Beach with acres of empty parking spots meaning there was vast vacancy. Subsequent efforts to speak with a representative from Expedia have gone ignored. Oh well, lesson learned and we won't be using Expedia again.
10 - Tune into the SportsCage on 620 CKRM today at 4:00 pm for a detailed rundown of the Florida minicamp and interviews with several Roughrider personalities.
A nice and new touch: Rider boss Chris Jones thanked us for coming down to Vero Beach and providing blanket coverage of the minicamp. Team President Craig Reynolds did the same thing. First class!
Marquez Clark ...
Dodgertown ambassador Hideo Nomo poses for a photo with Rider OL coach Mike Scheper on Wednesday. Nomo was the first Japanese player in Major League Baseball ...
Very cool. 1988 World Series champion skipper Tommy Lasorda still has his nameplate on his office at Dodgertown. There's a bed inside, which gives you an idea of the work ethic required to be a champion.
QB B.J. Coleman with Dan Plaster ...
LB coach Phillip Lolley on the Rider livestream ...
The coaches' meeting room. The holdover staff was impressed with Chris Jones' "inclusive" approach, and willingness to listen to all opinions ...
Getting out, looking around, seeing the sights ...
Top down, Florida-style ...
THANKS FOR READING ...