Monday, May 30, 2016
A year after debut season in which they won just two games, the Redblacks posted a 12-6 record in 2015 and advanced to the Grey Cup, where they lost 26-20 to the Edmonton Eskimos.
This year's team believes it can be even better after going from basement dwellers to legitimate contenders in just one season.
"We want to have a winning culture around here,'' said Redblacks head coach Rick Campbell. "We know it's not easy. We know it takes a lot of hard work, but that was part of the culture we wanted around here.
"Expectations are a healthy thing, if you don't have expectations from yourself or from your team that's usually not a good thing so I think expectations are good.''
While a number of changes occurred during the off-season, the Redblacks are finally at a point where they've developed some of their own talent and have a solid core.
The Redblacks parted ways with some significant talent including offensive lineman Colin Kelly, defensive linemen Shawn Lemon, Justin Capicciotti and Keith Shologan, receiver Maurice Price and defensive backs Jovon Johnson and Brandyn Thompson.
The face of the franchise remains quarterback Henry Burris, who was named the Most Outstanding Player last season. Burris, who turns 41 in less than a week, knows the skeptics are sure to come out despite his production last season.
"It is what it is,'' said Burris. "I've put my body in the position to be able to play this young man's game through my training. Of course I'm not as quick as I was when I was 25 or 26, but I find other ways mentally to get the job done.
"I find ways to take care of my body, use the weapons that are around me and understanding how to create the offence and execute within the offence and that's what allows me to be much better when I step on this field is knowing how to manage this game and making good decisions.''
Burris has no intention of making this his last season, announcing that a contract with Ottawa is in place for 2017. Burris anticipates Ottawa hosting the Grey Cup in 2017 as part of the country's 150th anniversary celebrations and wants to ensure he's around.
Should Burris falter, the Redblacks are confident they have a reliable backup in Trevor Harris, who started Toronto Argonauts for much of last season with Ricky Ray recovering from surgery. It should be noted the Redblacks were 0-3 against Toronto last season.