The Ottawa Redblacks are enjoying the novelty of a new training camp and trying not to dwell on the inevitable pre-season grind.
Right now the Redblacks are still feeling the excitement of getting back on the field, meeting new teammates and going through the paces, but with the regular season still a month away that will wear off.
“It’s one day at a time,” said receiver Brad Sinopoli. “You can’t look past it. The toughest thing in training camp is physically and mentally for some of the younger guys, but you just have to manage it day-by-day and you can’t look ahead or it seems insurmountable.”
Sinopoli says players can’t afford to take shortcuts through training camp and should make the most of the time as the rigours of the regular season will take its toll. Training camp will be key for Sinopoli this season as he’s returning from off-season shoulder surgery.
“The last hurdle is mental,” said Sinopoli, who will be looking for his fourth consecutive 1,000-plus yard season. “Everything is strong and it can hold up and you know that, it’s just telling yourself that and I think you just need a game to get over that.”
Sinopoli, who signed a two-year contract extension, and receiver Greg Ellingson will once again play a vital role in Ottawa’s offence, while Diontae Spencer will look to improve on last year’s solid performance.
Spencer, a dynamic receiver/returner, finished last season with 922 receiving yards and 1,796 combined return yards. He thinks he can be even better this year working in a familiar environment, which played a key role in his decision to re-sign with the Redblacks in the off-season.
“This was where I wanted to be and things played out perfectly,” said Spencer. “I’m looking forward to picking up where I left off and take on even greater responsibility. I want to be one of the guys coaches depend on and make the big plays.”
Heading into his fourth year, Spencer feels he has a greater understanding of what it takes to be successful and says it all starts with putting the work in at training camp.
“You need to approach each and every day as an opportunity to get better,” Spencer said. “It’s going to be long and it’s going to be tough, but it’s meant to be that way so mentally and physically when you get in a game it’s going to be easy. You have to get through this period to become a better football player.”
Like Spencer, running back William Powell re-signed and is eager to prove last season was just the start for him.
Powell, who was most impressive down the stretch when he rushed for at least 100 yards in three-straight games, including a high of 187 on September 29, says he already has a feeling this could be a big year for the Redblacks.
“Competition is already high and it’s still early on,” Powell said. “You can see the new guys are hungry and the returning guys are eager to get back at it so I like the feeling around here.”
Like every team, the Redblacks look at this season as a fresh start, but for a number of veterans, there still feels like some unfinished business.
Ottawa struggled at times last season and fell short in the East semifinal against Saskatchewan, and there’s still a sense of bitterness left behind for some players.
“I do feel like we have some type of chip on our shoulder to get back,” Spencer said. “Last year we were a good team, but couldn’t get it going on at the right time so looking forward to putting that behind us.
“When we approach everything it’s kind of a new motto for this year, but if you get enough guys that maybe have that feeling and you can bring that feeling together collectively, it can be a good thing.”