Caution was the name of the game as the Calgary Stampeders officially opened training camp on Saturday.
All first-day expectations were derailed after the unthinkable unfolded one province over when four Saskatchewan Roughriders players were sidelined with a torn Achilles tendon on the same day during a workout at Mosaic Stadium.
Stampeders veteran and CFL Players Association representative Jamar Wall said the news prompted a team conversation prior to practice.
“It’s definitely on everyone’s mind,” Wall said. “Just had to reiterate to be safe and to be smart and to remember, you’re not gonna make the team day one. You have to take time, learn the playbook, be smart, and learn how to be a professional overall.”
“Most importantly, we all came out healthy today.”
After 21 months away from McMahon Stadium, head coach Dave Dickenson was searching for ways to find ways to shake off the rust without pushing too hard, too soon.
“I’m doing my best to take it easy on them but I’m pushing them as well- so that’s basically contradicting myself,” Dickenson admitted. “I wanted to make sure we practice smart but I did want to get some things done with some tempo and we were able to do that… We won’t be banging around and we’ll limit the the the full-on compete drills where guys can get a little selfish at times and grab onto a guy or pull on a guy.”
Still, the Stamps were down a few bodies as they took the field.
Linebacker Cory Greenwood and Defensive Lineman Connor McGough did not practice because of undisclosed injuries.
Dickenson did not put a timeline on their returns but said he’s hopeful they’ll play.
Keep in mind, injuries played a big role in the demise of the Stampeders 2019 season, which saw them bow out in the Western Semi-Final against the eventual champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Bo Levi Mitchell said his shoulder is fully healed and he’s good to go.
The quarterback is turning his attention to gelling with the new and returning faces in the receiving corps- like Kamar Jorden, who has always been one step shy of stardom because of devastating injuries.
The 32-year-old tallied 944 receiving yards and six touchdowns in ten games in 2018 before tearing three ligaments in his knee.
While Jorden said his knee is feeling good and he’s keen to return, he’s taking extra precautions.
“I haven’t been to a camp after the injury,” Jorden said. “It’s definitely something I can’t ignore and something I’m going to have to make sure I’m aware of the rest of my career. Our strength trainers are giving me great things to do, to come in early and get warmed up and all those things. Other than that, being out there feels no different than running in 2018 or 2017.”
The overarching feeling is one of excitement as the Stamps wait for that enticing August 7 season opener against the Toronto Argonauts- and this group is eager to get to work.