Good Day Rider fans, well after what seemed like an eternity, training camp is just around the corner. Rookie camp starts Wednesday and full camp starts Sunday. Now you'd think that after having 6 months to fine tune their rosters that GMs around the league would have everything sorted out by now in terms of roster moves. However, GMs seem to take the same approach to roster management as most guys to do Christmas shopping... they wait until the very last minute hoping to find a bargain. And like most guys, they seem to do so with a surprising success rate. So let's get you caught up with the final installment of CFL Ins and Outs before training camp opens...
In: Reggie Bradshaw, Kevin Scott, Ryan Ackerman (signed with Saskatchewan) - The interesting thing here is not so much the signings themselves (both Ackerman and Bradshaw were widely expected in camp this year) but rather Eric Tillman's comments about the signings. First, he said that he expects Bradshaw to be a contributor on special teams this season. This is a pretty big vote of confidence from ET given that Bradshaw hasn't played a down in the CFL yet. But ET's comments regarding Kevin Scott were the most interesting. Scott is a long snapper and is being brought in to compete with Jocelyn Frenette. Frenette is among the league's best snappers but his weight hampers his punt coverage ability so Tillman has asked him to slim down this year and brought in Scott as an insurance policy in case he doesn't. I love the Tillman approach to motivation. He's like a good cop/bad cop all rolled into one...
ET: "Now Jocelyn, you're coverage wasn't all that good last season."
Frenette: "No, Mr. Tillman. Does this mean your going to cut me?"
ET: "Heavens no. I wouldn't cut you now. You're a valued member of this team. You just drop some weight in the offseason and we'll work with you in camp to improve"
Frenette: "Oh thank-you Mr. Tillman!! I swear I'll work hard!"
ET: "Of course you will... because I just signed another snapper and if you don't work hard then I'll cut you."
Out: Jason Armstead, (released by Hamilton) - the Ti-cats made the decision to cut Armstead after he turned down a contract extension (at a reduced salary) in favour of playing out the option year on his current contract. This is the second time in as many seasons that Armstead has been offered a pay cut, which is generally not a good sign. There does seem to be some uncertainty about Armstead's value - he seems to think he's worth a whole bunch and should be seeing the ball more and more, while the teams he plays for seem to think he's worth less and less and shouldn't be seeing the ball at all. If Armstead decides to temper his salary expectations a bit I could see him catching on elsewhere in the league (my guess would be Toronto, given their affinity for over-valued players who others have cut), otherwise he may be sitting for a long time.
In: Rontarius Robinson (signed with Hamilton) - When we didn't re-sign Robinson right away, I was pretty sure his tenure with the Riders was up. While we're sad to see him go (Media Consultant is particularly distraught), it's not like we don't have other capable halfbacks on the roster. I think the fact that Robinson signed with Hamilton right before camp means that they were interested in him on Feb. 15, and he spent three months begging any other team to give him a chance before finally giving in and going to the Ti-Cats.
In: Joe Paopao (hired by Montreal as Offensive Coordinator) - Please add this to the list of reasons I think Montreal will be a bust this year. Coaching was obviously a weakness last year for the Alouettes and to their credit they took action to address this by relieving Jim Popp of his coaching duties. Problem is they then replaced him with a Head Coach with no CFL experience and an Offensive Coordinator whose most recent CFL experience includes failures in both Ottawa and Hamilton. Since Don Matthews resigned, this team has been on a downward slope that mirrors that of Jason Armstead's contract offers.