The Roughriders were off to the races as training camp started in Saskatoon Sunday morning.
Rider Nation knows all too well the personnel changes to the team in off season – but there was no denying the change of tempo at Griffiths Stadium.
The pace may have been best encapsulated by Saskatoon-native Graig Newman, who spent the last two years with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, before re-signing with the Riders in February.
“Boy, that was the hardest day one I have ever had,” he said after the morning practices concluded on Sunday around noon.
The speed set by the coaches at the beginning of the day didn’t let up, which was noted by many of the players on the field.
“What stands out right away is just the fast tempo, and the quality of athlete the coaching staff brought in,” veteran receiver Rob Bagg said. “It really looks like a great camp.”
Besides the initial fervour that comes from the first day of camp, Bagg was also excited to get back onto the field with quarterback Darian Durant.
“I could just see the excitement in his face this morning,” Bagg said.
And the Roughriders star quarterback said he felt good after his first practice and wasn’t experiencing any swelling or tightness afterwards.
Durant said getting through the mental side of his Achilles injury was tough initially, but he was able to get past it and focus on what’s to come.
“You realize that you have to attack the road ahead of you, and that was my motivation, just knowing that I was given another opportunity,” he said.
That opportunity, and the opportunity of all the players there, was on full display through the three hour practice. It was rare to see a player standing around watching what was happening. The activity level was constant. Even during one-on-one drills, the players were split into two groups, so more players could participate at the same time.
General manager and head coach Chris Jones said that’s the way he wants it – in fact, he’d like it to be faster.
“If [the players] decide they don’t want to do this type of pace, then they probably want to look to go somewhere else,” he said, adding it was a bit of a rocky start.
“It wasn’t the prettiest thing in the world, we started off a little slow,” Jones said.
His sentiments were reiterated by offensive coordinator Stephen McAdoo, who attributed some of the reduced pace to players still learning the playbook.
“It was a little bit slow, it needs to speed up, and it will – it’s the first day,” he said.
Clarence Denmark, a veteran receiver who came to the Riders just a few weeks ago after five seasons with the Blue Bombers said for the new guys, and for the veterans, learning the playbook will be the key to fitting in.
“It’s chaos out here,” Denmark said. “[But] once you know what you’re doing you can kind of fly around and have fun.”
“They’re going to expect you to be great out there, and I think it raises your level of play,” he added.
But with all the comments on the speed, there was definitely a buzz amongst teammates for what’s to come.
“We’re definitely going to play fast, and we’re definitely going to be prepared,” Bagg said.
Training camp continues Monday morning at 9 a.m.
The Roughriders made several roster moves Sunday morning:
Added to the Roster
National offensive lineman Kadeem Adams (6.04 – 290 – Western)
National defensive back Troy Adams (5.10 – 175 – Northeastern)
National defensive back Joel Brtka (5.11 – 175 – Burlington Jr.)
International wide receiver Marquez Clark (5.11 – 190 – Central Oklahoma)
International wide receiver Ricky Collins (6.00 – 198 – Texas A&M-Commerce)
International offensive lineman Will Corbin (6.06 – 305 – Appalachian State)
International defensive back Justin Cox (6.00 – 187 – Mississippi State)
International defensive back Johnnie Dixon (5.11 – 194 – Pearl River)
International offensive lineman Kennedy Estelle (6.06 – 290 – West Alabama)
International defensive back Kentrell Everett (6.02 – 190 – Western New Mexico)
International defensive back Qudarius Ford (5.08 – 170 – South Alabama)
National fullback Marvin Golding (6.01 – 235 – Saint Mary’s)
National linebacker Dillon Grondin (6.00 – 230 – Windsor Jr.)
International quarterback Jacob Huesman (6’2 – 228 – Tennessee-Chattanooga)
National wide receiver Kyle Kawamoto (6.00 – 180 – Okanagan Jr.)
National defensive lineman Kalonji Kashama (6.04 – 259 – Eastern Michigan)
International defensive lineman A.C. Leonard (6.02 – 250 – Tennessee State)
National wide receiver Randy Roseway (6.00 – 180 – St. Francis Xavier)
International defensive back Rollins Stallworth (6.04 – 210 – Stanford)
International defensive lineman Ino Vitale (6.05 – 305 – Southwest Baptist)
International defensive back Xavier Walker (6.03 – 208 – Middle Tennessee)
Deleted from the Roster
International wide receiver Etauj Allen
International linebacker Curtis Brown
International defensive back Victor Dean Jr.
International offensive lineman Kamalie Matthews
International wide receiver Devrin Young
Move to Retired List
International defensive back David Barks
National defensive lineman Rory Connop
International wide receiver Armanti Edwards
International offensive lineman Darryl Johnson