By: RodPedersen.com Staff
Finally, football has arrived and it came in with a bang with a pair of huge free agent signings!
The football world is abuzz with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats finally putting Johnny Manziel’s name to paper (and on jerseys already for sale in the store). Lots of eyes were on Hamilton as he was on the field for day one of training camp.
"Johnny Football" is the biggest name to enter the CFL since Rocket Ismail signed with the Toronto Argonauts in 1991. That was a different era. There was a salary cap, but there was a “marquee player” exemption where a club could open up the pocketbook without cap consequences.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have this exemption back in the CFL CBA?
Manziel’s is a far different story. Whereas Ismail left Notre Dame and went straight to the CFL, Manziel has had a tumultuous journey after leaving Texas A&M for the NFL in 2014 (if you're not familiar, it is a well-publicized story, a simple search will lead you to hundreds of stories).
Now, after not throwing a professional pass since a December 27th, 2015 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Johnny Manziel will have a shot at earning a job with the Ti-Cats.
Two-and-a-half years without live game action is a long time and learning a new game, offence, teammates, opponents and country is a daunting task. Hamilton is a team on the rise and head coach June Jones likes Jeremiah Massoli a lot (enough to trade Zach Collaros) so it’s unlikely Manziel will be starting for Hamilton to begin the regular season.
Despite the hate on social media, to have Manziel in the CFL is a good thing. He may flame out, but his success would be a great boon for the league. His success could mean another shot at the NFL, or he may find a home in the CFL and decide to stay. Either way, it’s going to be a fun story to follow. Welcome to the CFL Johnny!
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Bighill turns 30 in October and still has a few miles left in his body, so it was surprising he didn’t re-sign with the Lions and reunite with Solomon Elimimiam.
With the Bombers pushing all of their chips in, the Riders inking a handful of free agent veterans, the Stampeders and Eskimos in a bit of a rebuild mode, the West Division should make for some entertaining football to watch this season.
The Out of the Tunnel season predictions will come before the kickoff of the regular season, but no one will run away with this division and it could be tighter than it was a year ago when just seven points separated first and fourth.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders quietly opened 2018 Training Camp in Saskatoon on Sunday but still made some headlines before even taking to the Griffiths Stadium turf.
The release of Cameron Marshall completely opens up the running back race. Jerome Messam is more than likely going to be the starter and occupy one of the seven Canadian starter spots. Marcus Thigpen is in the hunt, but will miss the first two games of the season for breaking the CFL’s drug policy. The rest is up in the air.
5 Things To Watch At Training Camp:
1 - Which Canadian receivers will stand out behind Rob Bagg and Jake Harty?
2 - Who will rotate in on the defensive line behind starters Willie Jefferson, Charleston Hughes, Zack Evans and Nick James?
3 - The quarterback battle behind Zach Collaros and Brandon Bridge.
4 - With so many veterans throughout the lineup, who are the youngsters that are ready to step in?
5 - As with every training camp, which four or five veterans will see their time with the Riders end?
The first action for everyone will be this Sunday in Edmonton (5:00 pm TSN, 620 CKRM Network).
The first pre-season games are usually a bit messy, but this year's version will be even more so. With just six days to prepare for the first game action and 90 players in camp, that is not a recipe for good football.
Like most initial pre-season games, veterans will see little if any game action. With the minimal days of preparation the players who spent time with the Riders in 2017 will be a step ahead of the brand-new faces to the lineup.
It will be a simplified game plan and it should showcase the great athletes and those who have a high football IQ that were able to soak in the fire hose of information thrown at them in less than one week of practice.
Be very leery of twitter play-by-play of any training camp session. With so much happening at the same time, and without the luxury of watching the practice tape, all of the information is anecdotal.
There will be tweets like, “Offensive guard Jim Smith was fantastic and wasn’t beat on one-on-ones!” After that, the person that posted that tweet may never have watched him during full 12-on-12 action where he had his show run by a junior invitee because he couldn’t pick up the offence.
So, if you have a chance, enjoy the sunshine and the beauty of Saskatoon at this time of year and head to Griffiths Stadium to watch for yourself and of course, don’t miss the game on Sunday.
Even better - PVR the game - as it will be the only time to see the Riders on TV before the season begins on June 15th.