Roughriders Head Coach & GM Chris Jones has labelled this training camp as "great" and they'll look for even more improvement in Week 2 as the club prepares to host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Saturday night in preseason action at New Mosaic Stadium (7:00 pm, 620 CKRM).
2 - There's a distinct air of positivity around this football club which has been missing the past few seasons. Last year was Year 1 of the Chris Jones regime and everyone was just getting used to the new boss and his expectations. The year before that - in 2015 - the club was still in the throes of the 2013 Grey Cup hangover and got off to an 0-9 start.
That's not the case with this bunch. There's an upbeat, energetic vibe around the 2017 Saskatchewan Roughriders and it's fun to be around.
3 - The talk around Griffiths Stadium on Monday will still be about Saturday's Green & White Scrimmage at SMF Field. It was a productive day, and Chris Jones came away quite happy with the team's performance.
I was caught somewhat off-guard Saturday afternoon when Jones asked me for my thoughts on the mock game afterwards. It was in the endzone, moments after his postgame session with reporters and I offered that it was far better than last year and several players actually made plays.
"Yeah," Jones drawled. "On both sides of the ball."
There's a lot to work with here.
4 - Back-up quarterback Bryan Bennett was the star of Saturday's mock game, going 11/13 for 173 yards and three touchdowns in limited action. However we'll have to wait until after Monday's practice to get Bennett's thoughts on his performance. The players weren't made available for interviews on Saturday, as the team chose instead to have the players sign autographs for the thousands of fans for an extended period. I thought that was a nice touch by the Riders. We'll have plenty of chances to talk to Bennett this week.
And of course the buzz around Saskatoon on Sunday was all about Vince Young. "How does he look?", "Is he going to stick around?", "What's he really like?", were all questions I heard.
The Vince Young Story simply seems to be one that's worth following very closely. He's had an up-and-down camp, at times looking shoddy, then sparkling the next day, and then being average.
But it sounds like he's in it for the long haul which is extremely admirable. He doesn't need to be here, but he's doing it for the right reasons.
5 - I've talked a lot about Sports Illustrated Senior Writer Greg Bishop who was in Saskatoon last week doing a story on Vince Young for the fabled magazine.
This guy has covered the NFL out of New York and Seattle so he's been around the game for quite awhile.
"Who's #5?" Bishop asked of Kevin Glenn, not knowing anything about his age or history. "He's the best player on the field, offense or defense."
It's been hard to miss.
|The Riders' management trio|
Jones did most of the talking and discussed a variety of topics including the team's scouting system, signing their Canadian draft picks and developing the franchise's next marquee quarterback.
A great question came from a fan who asked, "How do you balance developing a young quarterback, and keeping him, with playing a veteran like Kevin Glenn?"
"We're constantly looking for the next Bo-Levi Mitchell," Jones explained, "While still winning enough games to be a sustainable coach!"
One fan asked how Jones expects the Rider Nation to react if the team has a similar record at Labour Day as they did a year ago (1-7)?
"I'd expect the same thing!" Jones laughed. "I'd be pissed!"
Regarding the delay in signing the club's top draft picks, Jones said the Roughriders won't be forced into overpaying for rookies who haven't played a down in the CFL. He said it's unfair to pay them more than 2- or 3-year veterans who've already proven their worth. John Murphy also chimed in that these these contracts set precedent and they don't want to set the financial bar too high for future first round picks.
"If you want to blame somebody," Jones said of drawn-out contract talks, "Blame me."
6 - Rider President Craig Reynolds was on hand and answered some tough questions as well. He mentioned there's a $12 ticket surchage on all Rider tickets for the next 30 years in order to pay back a loan to the Government of Saskatchewan. He said much of the financial onus will be on the Rider Nation.
"The #1 reason we have a new stadium is you guys, the fans," Reynolds remarked. "The people who come to the games."
7 - Reynolds also provided an update on the CFL's search for its next Commissioner. He said Rider Chairman Wayne Morsky is part of the hiring process and that the hiring committee is about to begin the first round of interviews.
Reynolds said that until the new Commissioner is named, the League is content to have Jim Lawson fill the role of acting-Commissioner.
8 - When the CFL announced on Thursday that it would have a special announcement on Monday in Edmonton, I got real excited thinking the new Commissioner would be unveiled. As it turns out, that was wishful thinking.
Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun broke the story that the announcement is that Edmonton will be named the host city of the 2018 Grey Cup.
My initial reaction? Why not?
Edmonton has a world class facility and I was surprised to learn that they've only hosted four Grey Cups before.
There's plenty of time for the Riders to get their ducks in a row with the new stadium before playing host to the CFL championship again.
9 - I read with interest a Saskatoon sports blog last week which mentioned, "Who Are These Guys?" with regards to the 2017 Saskatchewan Roughriders. I took a little umbrage with that comment. Sure, Darian Durant, Weston Dressler, John Chick, Chris Getzlaf et al are long gone but how long are we going to pine for the old days?
What does this blogger want these Riders to do; show up at his house for supper?
It may take a little work to "get to know" the 2017 Roughriders but I assure you it'll be well worth it. Henoc Muamba, Duron Carter, Peter Dyakowski, Bryan Bennett and players like this all have interesting stories and promise to make this a very interesting season.
It's only just begun!
10 - QB TRACKER: Good news out of Montreal on Monday morning as Darian Durant has returned to the field for the first time since injuring his left knee early last week ... Meanwhile in Edmonton, the Eskimos have released former Roughrider and RedBlack quarterback Brett Smith. He subsequently announced his retirement on Instagram.
In truth, I thought she was the star of the show as she belted out her hits and shook her bottom vivaciously to the beat all night long. She performed like it was her first, or last-ever, performance. The only thing I didn't like was the beat mix of her famous Piece Of My Heart single.
Just give me country!
Her husband Tim McGraw did just that, but I was dismayed to hear a shortened version of his legendary I Like It, I Love It tune (the long-standing Nashville Predators goal song). He just didn't seem as into the performance as his wife was.
But it was still Tim. And I found the redneck slipping out of me just a little bit as I sang along to Felt Good On My Lips, Live Like You Are Dying, and Angry All The Time.
Old habits die hard I guess.
It was a fantastic light show, but I'll agree with those who thought the whole performance seemed just a little "weird".
Thanks to Curtis Nelson of Nelson GM in Assiniboia for bringing me along to enjoy the show!
THAT'S IT! SEE YOU ON THE RADIO!