The 2011 season has been underway for only a few hours now but already it has contained all the surprising moves, injuries and down right odd occurrences of a typical Rider season.
In the surprising move category, Chris Szarka was released today. Apparently the bylaw preventing his release didn't work its way through city hall fast enough. You had to know that with the acquisition of Bell and Exume something had to give. I just really didn't think it would be Szarka. Age, salary and he fact that a true fullback isn't really a necessity anymore all played into this release. Used to be the fullback's job was to block a lot and run the ball occasionally. In our pass based offense, Wes Cates effectively fills that role. Sad to see such a storied Rider career come to an end but that's the nature of the football business.
This will create a new battle in training camp. A battle for who the fans will now complain is underused.
In the injury department, the Riders received some terrible news as Rob Bagg has re-injured his ACL and had to have another surgery. He won't be ready to play until at least Labour Day, if at all. This is terrible news for both Bagg and the Riders. If Bagg could ever get in a full season as a starting slotback I'm convinced he would be a strong contender for Most Outstanding Canadian. This now puts the pressure on Clermont, Getzlaf, Sisco and Cetoute to step up and fill the void of 2 immensely talented Canadian receivers.
And from the odd occurrences file, draft pick Matt O'Donnell will not be reporting to training camp as he has a tryout down south... not in the NFL as we are used to but with the Boston Celtics of the NBA. Making this even weirder is the fact that O'Donnell hasn't played basketball since high school. I'd say that the odds of a fat white kid who isn't a great basketball player ending up in the NBA is slim and nil but Bryant "Big Country" Reeves made a 6 year career out of similar credentials so anything can happen I guess.
Lastly, i was finally able to quench my football fix by taking in the opening day of rookie camp this afternoon with PR Guy. While its hard to get much a sense of people's abilities from day 1 since most fo them are just learning the Canadian game, here are a few random observations I had:
- Chris Leak looked bad today, hesitating on throws, bad throws. He had better pick things up quickly if he wants to stay employed.
- There was a receiver with the #13 who wasn't on the roster out there today. Not too worried about him not being on the roster, since based on his level of play I don't see him lasting long enough to learn his name anyways.
- LB Chris Graham is a big man. I really want to see him unload and cream somebody.
- Draft pick Kyle Exume looked to have pretty decent hands
- My favourtie part of the day was when they practiced falling on loose footballs with the O-linemen. nothing more entertaining that watching fat guys jump on loose balls... err on second thought strike that last comment from the record.
-Jeremiah Weatherspoon showed good hustle (not sure if that will translate into on-field success but at least he looks like he wants it)
- Interested to see more of Brandon West in the coming days. He showed some good hands and nice bursts of speed.
- It was weird not having little Mike Schepper yelling his lungs off at the D-line. But I guess Coach Marshall's "get bigger on the D-line" mantra extends to the coaches as well since Mike Walker is both quieter and bigger than his predecessor. though it is nicer seeing a D-Line coach who doesn't look like he might be eaten by his players between drills.