Ladies and gentlemen, it’s finally June and the Canadian Football League is preparing for another season of football! That also includes the Montreal Alouettes, who opened training camp this past Sunday. Held annually at Coulter Field located at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, the 2015 session kicked off in weather that could be best described as “October-like” or to some, REAL football weather.
This unseasonable drop in temperature, coupled with spurts of rain, made that first day of training camp a bit of a tough one for some fans to endure. The Alouettes brass had decided before Sunday to move their planned off-field fan activities for the inter-squad game on June 7th in Saint-Hubert, QC. Perhaps it was just as well, as only die-hard football fans would brave the blustery conditions. As the song lyric goes, “You can plan a pretty picnic but you can’t predict the weather”.
Those that did suck it up (Or as one very intelligent fan did, bring a tuque and heavy coat!) got to see their first taste of live football action in months. And based on the looks on everyone’s faces, nobody walked away disappointed. Possibly a tad frostbitten, but not disappointed!
After Sunday’s session, training camp was held indoors to avoid the rain and cold. While football players are used to playing during bad weather, it doesn’t make for an ideal work environment when it comes to going over new plays or evaluating talent. The Alouettes are fortunate to have an indoor facility available near the university campus for such instances.
With four days of camp now in the books, I have some random thoughts to share on what’s gone down so far:
- It’s still very early, but Stefan Logan and Dobson Collins are playing each series and drill like their lives are depending on it. Logan has a lot to prove to himself after stints with the Detroit Lions and BC Lions. His speed has been simply incredible so far, both in running back drills and on kick returns. If this can continue during the off-season, there’s a lot to be excited about. Meanwhile, Collins is making some great catches and developing chemistry with all three QBs. This may be the last true shot that this journeyman receiver has to make a CFL team, having failed to convince the Ottawa RedBlacks that he was worth hanging onto. Again, playing actual opponents versus teammates is a whole other story but Dobson is truly attacking this opportunity with all that he has.
- I had said in my 2015 season preview that the starting quarterback position is not set in stone, but Jonathan Crompton is certainly proving that he wants to leave no doubt about his claim to it. He’s looked confident and poised in the pocket while possessing a very strong arm. That being said, do not go to sleep on Tanner Marsh. He too has made very good decisions thus far in the pocket and is certainly not afraid to chuck the ball deep. Combined with his trademark mobility, he too will get some serious consideration from this coaching staff. As for young Canadian hopeful Brandon Bridge, there’s still work to be done but he too has incredible mobility and has the makings of a solid read-option quarterback. The key will be not to rush this young man along in 2015 and let him evolve naturally.
- Defensively, you are not going to find anyone playing with more fire and passion than Dominique Ellis. Another force on special teams in 2014, Ellis has also elevated his level of play thus far, really covering the ball well and not afraid to mix it up with all of the receivers. If he continues this level of intensity throughout the rest of camp, it’s going to be difficult to not see him in the starting lineup on June 25th. It’s easy to forget that Michael Sam is on this team. I don’t mean that in an insulting way, but he really has become, “one of the boys”. He’s working hard and making the most of each opportunity he gets to rush the quarterback, which is what he was brought in to do. Again, when he’ll really be noticed is when he first gets his mitts on an opposing quarterback. But as far as him being a possible distraction? Not even a little. He’s just a guy trying to make the team just like, well, everyone!
- Coach Calvillo. Man that STILL takes some getting used to! It felt very weird to call Anthony Calvillo that on Sunday after the camp session ended. It’s also unusual to see everyone clamouring around a football team’s receivers coach to get his autograph, but such is life with the Montreal Alouettes. When asked if he was missing the camp life or putting on the pads to join the boys on the field, he smiled and said, “Not even a little; I’m at peace with where I am here.” I asked AC about the bumper crop of receivers now at his disposal and he’s very impressed at what he has to work with. You can tell immediately that Calvillo is looking forward to sharing his wisdom and helping to develop some great players.
- One light-hearted moment from this camp sticks out; while practicing indoors yesterday, Sean Whyte lined up to practice a kick-off. Kicking indoors has unusual challenges such as the ball hitting the ceiling or bouncing off the walls. But Whyte had managed to kick a ball that sailed beautifully across from one end of the field all the way to…. the top of Josh Bourke’s head! Thankfully the big lug was wearing his helmet while practicing drills with his fellow linemen when it happened. No harm done, but it garnered a lot of laughs from everyone in attendance.
- I’ve been critical at times of this team’s administration, but they do get it right as well at times. Staff members have been great when it comes to handing out updated lineup cards for everyone who attends each training camp session. And if there are young kids in attendance, they are given a small token of appreciation by those same staff members. It’s a small gesture that is of minimal cost to the organization but it can make a huge difference later on down the road as these young fans grow older.
There’s still a ways to go, but you can’t help but be excited at the potential that’s available right now in camp. If you can, you owe it to yourself to check out the Alouettes at training camp. If you are unable to make the trek out to Lennoxville during the week, you can see this team in action this coming Sunday!
At Parc Rosanne-Laflamme in St. Hubert, the Alouettes will play a game against each other, offence versus defence. There will be in-game music, merchandise for sale, player intros and all sorts of activities for fans of all ages. After the game, players will be made available for autographs and photos. Admission to this event is completely free!
Just as this post was about to go viral, word came down that Brandon London had announced his retirement. A bit shocking as he was in good spirits to start camp and had been staying in shape during the off-season. Still a young man at 30, London had accomplished quite a bit. He has a Super Bowl ring plus a Grey Cup ring as well as the distinct honour of catching Anthony Calvillo’s final touchdown.
There’s no question that Brandon will find success in whatever he chooses to do now. He’s done TV and acting, coaches kids during the off-season and has never found a camera that didn’t love him. He will be missed by everyone in Montreal as he loves interacting on social media and making the fans’ day. No matter what happens or where life takes him, he will always be a proud member of Alouettes Nation.
I’ll be back here with more as training camp progresses, leading up to both pre-season games. For all the latest news and thoughts, be sure to follow along on Twitter as well. I’ll see you all at the intra-squad game this Sunday!
GO ALS GO!!!