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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

STAMPEDERS, LIONS TRAINING CAMP NOTES

CALGARY - Business as usual is head coach Dave Dickenson's approach to Calgary Stampeders training camp.

But the business of football could throw a wrench into the reigning Grey Cup champion's season preparations.

The CFL's collective bargaining agreement with its players expires Saturday, which is the day before players report to main camps.

While players on four of the nine teams have been instructed by their union not to report Sunday, players on teams in Alberta and Ontario won't be in a legal strike position until May 23.

Assured of bodies to at least start camp, Dickenson preferred to talk personnel Tuesday instead of labour strife.

"I'm just feeling good about, let's get them on the field and get working,'' Calgary's coach said. "Let the smarter guys than me figure the rest of that out.''

And Dickenson has a lot of figuring out to do on the field, with 11 of 24 starters in the Grey Cup game gone elsewhere.

"That's almost 50 per cent,'' he pointed out. ``That's a crazy stat.

"Do I love it? No, but I also think if I was another player or a young player, I'd want to make my name. I'd want to get out there and show people what I can do.''

Pressing needs at receiver and on the defensive line, gaping holes in the defensive backfield, a new defensive co-ordinator and new linebackers coach add up to more flux than the Stampeders usually experience in the off-season.

"We're going to let those guys sort it out,'' Dickenson said. "Cream rises to the top, no doubt about it.''
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SURREY, B.C. - It's been a busy off-season for B.C. Lions quarterback Mike Reilly.

First came February's blockbuster signing that saw the former Edmonton Eskimo ink a four-year, $2.9-million contract with the club. Since then, the 34-year-old has been working to cement relationships with his new Lions teammates and coaching staff.

"It's been really good to get to know those guys off the field, to get to know their personalities makes things much better when we do get on the field,'' Reilly said Tuesday.

The quarterback spends his off-seasons in Seattle with his wife and two young daughters, and over the last few months, he's come up to the B.C. Lions' suburban training facility nearly every week to work out with whoever's around.

"I've thrown more this off-season with my wide receivers than I have any other year just because of the amount of time that we've spent together,'' he said.

Now Reilly and the rest of the Lions are preparing to spend even more time together as the club heads to training camp in Kamloops, B.C., about 350 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.

Camp is entirely different than what the players have been up to so far, Reilly said.

"You can't get away from each other and all you do is football all day long,'' he said. "That's when you start to build a championship team.''

Building chemistry at camp will be key for the Lions, who look much different than the team that finished last season fourth in the West Division with a 9-9 record. They clinched the crossover spot but were routed by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the eastern semifinal.

B.C.'s since made a myriad of changes, including signing Reilly to replace veteran quarterback Travis Lulay and hiring DeVone Claybrooks as head coach following the retirement of long-time bench boss Wally Buono.

Training camp will be the perfect opportunity for the revamped club to come together, Claybrooks said.

"(This is where) we form those relationships and the family and the bonds that last a lifetime,'' he said. "I know that some of the best memories I have as a player are from training camp when we were away and those type of things. So I think that will allow the new and the old to mix together.''

The CFL and the players association are still in talks about a new collective bargaining agreement. If a new deal isn't reached by the time the current agreement expires on Saturday, many Lions players have said they will not report to camp when it opens on Sunday morning.

There was little concern in team's dressing room on Tuesday about a work stoppage.

"I know the (players association) wants to play football, the CFL wants to play football. That's why we're all here,'' WR Brian Burnham said.

The players just want what's for themselves and the league as a whole, said Reilly.

"At the end of it all, I want to be on the field playing football. The rest of my teammates want that, the fans want that, the owners want that, the coaches want that,'' he said.

"Everybody just wants the season to go and play as per normal. Things have to get done for that to happen and I'm hopeful that it will.''

(Canadian Press)

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