There's a famine across the Canadian Football League. There must be, because everyone says they're hungry as they prepare to kickoff the 2010 season the week of July 1.
The hunger is especially prevalent amongst the four West Division teams, given the comments I've received over the past week as clubs entered training camp. We can start in Calgary where the Stampeders were a combined 0-5 against last years division champs, the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Montreal Alouettes and it doesn't sit well.
"It's a much different approach to our team this year than last," reported Calgary quarterback Henry Burris. "Last year we tried to stay the same team as the one the year before that won a championship. The thing we learned last year is that things change. Just as the Riders experienced a ton of injuries in 2008, we had that last year with injuries to our top two receivers in Rambo and Thelwell.
"There's been changes again this year but we all understand that we have to work our butts off. We learned that if you take your foot off the gas, your opponents will blow right past you. That's what happened last year. We couldn't beat Saskatchewan and Montreal and they wound up in the Grey Cup. We're making sure we dedicate ourselves to the cause and give ourselves the best chance possible. Every team's going to be tough, especially in their own stadiums because it's the road wins that get you first place and that bye into the western final."
In B.C., the Lions' eight wins were only good enough for a fourth-place showing although they were able to qualify for the East Division playoffs via the crossover. However coach and G.M. Wally Buono wants his charges to feel the hunger that he feels escaped them the past few years.
"There were certain veterans that Wally had that he felt let him down and didn't play up to their expectations," observed Lions colour commentator Giulio Caravatta, a former B.C. quarterback. "The other thing is you give these guys the lee-way to play better and if they don't then you're sort of married to these guys. That was a big downfall and some of these guys didn't play up to what they were capable of.
"Offensively these guys will be fine but on the line of scrimmage and on defense, they have to be much better. If they're not, they'll be in for another long year. In this league you can't not get after the quarterback and stop them on first down. Last year teams ran the ball down B.C.'s throat and that's not something this team was known for for a lot of years."
We shouldn't have to mention why the Saskatchewan Roughriders are still ticked off coming back for the new season. Their "too many men" gaffe on the last play of the Grey Cup against Montreal cost them their second championship in three years and it still haunts them to this day.
"I would say I think about it more than once a day, everyday," Rider centre Jeremy O'Day. "We definitely think about that game and it's always in your head. It definitely motivates us and what better way to do that than get back to the championship game so we're ready for the season to get started."
The Edmonton Eskimos aren't standing pat either, although their third-place finish in 2009 was a modest improvement over their last-place finish the year before. Second-year head coach Richie Hall quietly made a huge change on defense when he named himself coordinator on that side of the ball, taking over from Jim Daley who stepped down. They had the 6th overall defense last year but were a league worst in pass defense, giving up 284 yards per game. A former all-star defensive back himself, Hall will be looking to shore up that area in short order.
Yes, everybody seems hungry out here in the west. But at the end of the season, there won't be enough food to go around.
Rod Pedersen is the Voice of the Roughriders on 620 CKRM Radio.
|June 29, 2013||Saskatchewan||Edmonton||@ 1:30 PM|