Bakari Grant was a leader, a talker and a fighter on Thursday.
The veteran wide receiver was involved in a minor scuffle when he took exception to a hit laid by linebacker Taylor Reed on running back C.J. Gable near the goal-line during a team session. While there is plenty of contact during practices, taking players to the ground isn’t done.
“It got physical. At this point, with this team we want to work on precision,” Grant said. “Me and some of the defensive guys got into it a little bit but there’s no disrespect, it’s all love.”
Now into his fifth year with the club, Grant has been more outspoken on the field this season, offering both praise and criticism to teammates.
“It takes players taking ownership, when things aren’t right for us to speak up,” Grant said.
“I’ve been around and it’s not me wanting to be a more vocal leader but it had to be said and if nobody is going to say it, I’ll say it.”
With so many returnees — 41 of the 46 players from the team that played in the Grey Cup last season are back — Grant said holding each other accountable is easier because the friendships are already established. And they all have a common goal.
“Kent Austin alluded to it in our first team meeting. He spoke of the Grey Cup loss. As soon as he said the words, it boiled my blood,” Grant said. “Last year, we were like ‘dang, we almost got it.’
“This year, it’s like ‘we should have had it and we’re back to get it.'”
Glen Johnson could have thrown a flag for 13 men in the huddle — on himself.
The CFL’s vice-president of officiating attended Hamilton Tiger-Cats training camp Thursday as part of the league’s ongoing effort to educate players, coaches and officials on the bevy of new rules and procedures being implemented this season.
At one point, he joined a special teams huddle to remind players of the new regulations surrounding punt coverage.
“There’s so much change, we have to get ahead of it and that’s why we are being so proactive,” Johnson said. “I’m here to see that all the theoretical stuff that we’ve passed in the off-season can be done in practice. That we can really implement it.”
In addition to the rule changes that impact pass interference, hurry-up offence, converts and special teams coverages, the league is also introducing new wireless headsets that will allow on-field officials to communicate with one another. It’s designed to cut down on the number of on-field huddles, speed up penalty calls and improve the overall flow of the game.
Johnson, who was a league official for 24 years before taking his current position before last season, says having officials in training camps across the league should help smooth the transition to the new rule book.
“Just having the communication and the dialogue puts us all on the same page,” he said.
Ticats head coach Kent Austin said the knee injury suffered by Brian Bulcke during Wednesday’s practice doesn’t appear to be serious and that the popular defensive tackle could be back in time for the regular season opener on June 26.
“He’s going to get an MRI but I think we’re in good shape,” Austin said Thursday. “We definitely dodged a bullet.”
Bulcke was hurt during a one-on-one drill and limped off the field before being fitted with a knee brace. He watched Thursday’s session from the sidelines.
With Linden Gaydosh out for the year with a torn Achilles, the Ticats need Bulcke and some of their other young defensive tackles to get healthy. Mike Atkinson, who has missed the last couple of days, did some drill work on Thursday and is expected to be ready by the team breaks camp, as is third-year player Hasan Hazime, who is recovering from a knee injury suffered last season.