Football is a dangerous game. The potential to get hurt always exists.
But injuries don’t always show themselves in the bone-crushing collisions or falls to the ground, there’s also the daily wear and tear of being a football player.
Saskatchewan Roughriders players are proving it.
As training camp moves past its first week, players are beginning to hobble and limp between drills.
As safety Marc-Olivier Brouillette explained, it’s not what you think.
“I got some toenails falling off. My feet don’t look very pretty right now.”
Brouillette said he’s gotten used to the punishment as he takes part in his ninth CFL training camp. Two practices a day totalling more than three hours in brand new cleats under the hot sun is bad news for your feet.
Many players lather on Vaseline to limit the blistering, nearly all run to the ice baths after practice for instant relief.
Undrafted rookie running back Bryce Vieira from the University of Ottawa signed ahead of training camp. He isn’t likely to stay with the Roughriders, but he’s learning the toll of training camp just the same.
“I have, like, rainbow-coloured toenails, all purple, blue and I feel like my big toe is about to fall off,” he said looking down at his feet.
“I got blisters the size of a finger, so I’m just hanging in there.”
Apparently if you’re in motion, you’re fine.
“Funny thing is that as soon as you start running, you don’t feel it anymore,” Vieira said. “But as soon as you’re on the sideline, you start to really feel it.”
Brendon Labatte is at his 11th training camp.
As an offensive lineman, he is often sweating at a faster rate than most of his teammates, rumoured to lose more than four pounds per day.
“Probably double that,” he said. “Eight to 10 is probably what we’re losing in three to four hours.”
Brouillette came out of retirement to join the Roughriders in September of 2017. Missing that time to practice with the team ahead of the season can be vital for a player’s success. It can also add some rust.
“I think it was a gift and a curse. A gift that I got to get out of training camp last year, but the curse was, I didn’t know what I was stepping in to,” he said of his first camp in green and white.
“It’s a grind,” he said. “It’s more than just the three-plus hours we’re out on the field, there’s so much that goes on behind the scenes in meetings, lifting weights, taking care of your body.”
Part of that maintenance is the strict daily schedules that players follow to stay at their best.
Players wake up before six, get to the facility, stretch, eat, get to the dressing room and suit up for practice. That’s followed by a quick half-hour lift in the gym, cold tub, stretch and then off to afternoon meetings.
— Marc-O Brouillette (@MOBrouillette) May 21, 2018
The common factor is the difficulty of a Chris Jones’ training camp. Throughout camp, players have been commenting on how fast-paced their coach likes his drills.
“I’ve seen my fair share (of training camps), but I spent a majority of those out in Montreal. The pace and the tempo during those years was nothing near what it is out here,” Brouillette said of Saskatchewan’s training camp.
A few toenails down as he closes out week one at training camp, Brouillette said the tough days will pay dividends later on this season.
“Chris Jones has a proven track record around this league. Everywhere he’s gone he’s had success. I think there’s a method to his madness. I think it’s about trusting the process. If we stick with it, we know we’ll be peaking at the right time when the regular season rolls around.”
The Riders will remain in Saskatoon through June 6. Training camp will finish June 8 with the team’s final pre-season game at Mosaic Stadium against the Calgary Stampeders.