Yes, the wait for football season has nearly reached its end.
With the CFL season just 26 days away, teams across the league are beginning preparations for another journey to the Grey Cup.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders open its training camp in Saskatoon on Sunday at Griffiths Stadium at 9 a.m.
After an off-season of trades, signings, cuts and workouts, it’s time for players to get back to work.
“We’re excited to get back on the field, I’m sure after a couple days of practice we’ll be a little tired of that and ready to hit another team,” newly acquired quarterback Zach Collaros said. “This is our job. We love football.”
Collaros was in Saskatoon signing autographs for adoring fans at The Rider Store inside The Centre Mall ahead of Sunday’s practice.
He highlights a crop of new players expected to improve Saskatchewan’s 10-8, 4th place West Division finish a season ago. Joining him is Charleston Hughes, Travis Bond, John Ojo and Regina-born Zack Evans as the notable 2018 additions.
As the team continues to make moves in the early days of training camp, you’d think the day is all about introductions and getting familiar with playbooks and schemes — not according to Collaros.
“It’s a very competitive day,” he said. “We haven’t been out there for about five months, so there’s a lot of energy.”
Zack Evans is no stranger to Rider training camps. He played for the team in 2012 and 2013 in a backup role before moving to the expansion Ottawa Redblacks the past four seasons. After entering as an eager rookie looking to prove he belongs in the CFL for his first Rider camp, Evan’s approach couldn’t be more different this time around.
“It’s more of let’s get in, let’s get out, let’s win a Grey Cup. It’s business now,” he said plainly.
Evans echoed Collaros’ thoughts on the competitiveness right from the first practice.
“The first day is kind of a whirlwind,” Evans said. “Honestly, you talk about where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there. It’s like a precursor to the rest of the season.”
Though if it were up to him, Evans would skip the month of practice and get straight to meaningful games.
“I love playing games. I get paid to practice, I don’t get paid to play games,” he said of his impatience this time of year.
“I play games for free.”
Arriving in Saskatchewan on Monday, Rider nation has already made an impression on its new all-star quarterback.
“The sense of community, the pride and passion they have for the team, we love being a part of something like that,” Collaros said.
“Now it’s on us to do our part and start stacking those wins up.”
Venues for camp will alternate between Griffiths Stadium and Saskatoon Minor Football Field at Gordie Howe Sports Complex.
Practices start at 9 a.m. except for Green and White Day on June 2. That day begins at 1 p.m. at SMF Field with addresses from head coach Chris Jones and assistant vice president of football operations Jeremy O’Day before DJ’s, beer gardens and performances from the Rider Cheer Team take over the grounds. It all leads up to the annual green and white scrimmage game at 3 p.m.
Training camp will wrap up in Saskatoon on June 6, two days before the Riders final preseason game against the Calgary Stampeders.