Somehow we managed to make it. It's been 186 days since the Grey Cup (not that I'm counting or anything) and finally the offseason is officially over. Now you would think, given all the excitement and celebrations of winning the Grey Cup, that this offseason would have flown by... Not so.
You see this was no regular offseason. Not only did we have to survive 6 football-less months, over those 6 months we had to suffer through the loss of the Coach of the Year, the loss of the reigning league MVP, the loss of our defensive MVP, the loss of 2 popular veterans and the re-signing of the Grey Cup MVP (okay maybe this last one was harder on me than most others), making this one of the longest offseasons that I can remember.
But the important thing is that we made it. Rookie camp opened yesterday and with it a new season is upon us.
Here's a couple of the big stories from day 1 of Rookie camp...
One of the most high profile participants in rookie camp is recent signing Adarius Bowman. Bowman had a very successful college career and was projected to be drafted to the NFL in the 1st or 2nd round. That all fell apart though when he was charged with possession of marijuana. He wasn't drafted or even offered a free agent deal in the NFL. Enter Eric Tillman, who locked up Bowman on our negotiation list before the NFL draft. Then by the time Bowman wasn't picked up down south and the rest of the CFL was interested it was too late. Bowman was a Rider. Now there is a chance he could just be another Hakeem Hill but that's not the impression I get. Bowman sounds like a character guy who made a mistake, paid dearly for it and now wants to re-establish himself. He's got tons of talent and something to prove. Given that Dominguez and Washington aren't ready to go yet cause of their knees, having that kind of player on our roster is a very good thing. Besides, if the CFL passed on everyone who smoked the reefer it would have to contract to 2 teams and possibly look into adopting the 9-man game.
The other big surprise yesterday was Dustin Cherniawski announcing his retirement to pursue other work opportunities after 3 seasons with the Riders. As surprising as the news is, I can see the reasoning. Cherniawski was a career special teamer/back-up who had just won a Grey Cup. In all honesty his career was at the highest it would ever get. So if he had a good opportunity outside football this was the perfect time to walk away. Best of luck to you Dustin. I only hope the Riders replace him with someone whose name is easier to spell.
Now here's what's going on elsewhere in the league...
After 23 seasons, the ageless wonder Damon Allen has finally decided to retire. His storied career includes 4 Grey Cup rings, 1 League MOP and countless records including becoming Pro Football's All-time Leading Passer. My theory on why he finally decided to call it quits is that he ran out of reasons to keep playing. He should have retired in 2004 but he wanted to win 1 more Grey Cup. He could have retired on top in 2005 but wanted to win that elusive League MOP award. He could have retired in 2006 but wanted to become football's all-time leading passer. This time around there was really nothing left for him to do except maybe trying to be the first person to throw a touchdown and cash an old age security cheque on the same day.
The revolving door in Edmonton continues. First they released Rob Pikula who they recently traded for. Apparently Pikula had other opportunities outside of football he wanted to pursue (which is a polite way of saying "There's no freaking way I'm playing for the Eskimos"). Then Edmonton quickly filled the void at punting by trading with Calgary for Duncan O'Mahony. In exchange Calgary will receive a conditional draft pick. While terms of the deal were not released, word is that the condition is that O'Mahony has to find his way to Edmonton. If he gets lost somewhere along the way the deal is off.
That's it for now. I'll be stopping by Rookie Camp tomorrow to check things out, maybe I'll see some of you there?