Though they could be on strike with the rest of the CFL in days, Calgary Stampeders’ quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell believes he and his teammates made the most of their initial training camp practices.
“I know we’ve got stuff on the outside, but right now we get between the white lines and guys are just having fun and happy to be out there,” the veteran gunslinger told the assembled media at McMahon Stadium.
Nobody was happier than Mitchell himself. The 32-year-old is entering his tenth CFL season and is coming off the most difficult stretch in his career. A series of devastating injuries had even led Mitchell to contemplate retirement, but he believes he’s finally put all of that behind him.
“The confidence is back, the excitement’s back. The wife, Madison, has been very giddy over these last couple of months. I’ve been throwing pain-free for the last three or four months,” Mitchell said, crediting his team of doctors for the turnaround.
“We figured some things out finally, found out what it really was. I’m very excited to get out there and remind the defensive backs what happens when they jump some routes. The ball’s gonna go over the top.”
That’s the cockiness that CFL fans have grown accustomed to seeing from the two-time Most Outstanding Player, something which hadn’t returned at this time last year. In fact, it has been nearly three calendar years since a full-strength Mitchell took to the field.
A labral tear in his throwing shoulder cost him time in 2019 and resulted in off-season surgery, but the injury continued to ail Mitchell throughout last season. Coming off of the CFL’s coronavirus-imposed hiatus, he also missed the majority of 2021 training camp with groin soreness, before sitting out three games with a fractured fibula suffered in Week 1.
The compounding injuries visibly frustrated Mitchell throughout the year, leading to speculation about his future. Despite a brave face in public, it was a difficult time for the quarterback personally and has given him a renewed love for the game.
“For me, after the last two years of what I’ve gone through, it’s just appreciating the fact that I do get to come back out here,” he said. “It was almost taken away from me for good and for that to not be the case right now, I feel very appreciative.”
Training camp will be about more than just good vibes, but Mitchell knows that feeling healthy is different from proving it when the regular season hits.
While the Stampeders have supported their face of the franchise publicly, youngster Jake Maier impressed in Mitchell’s absence last season and comes with a far cheaper price tag. The team is in no rush to make a quarterback change, but pro football is all about the most recent results.
Mitchell is cognizant of that fact and though he won’t risk another injury setback through overuse, he’s feeling the pressure to prove he is still one of the league’s elite passers.
“We’ll obviously be smart, but I’m here to compete,” Mitchell insisted. “I need to compete and to prove not only to myself but to my teammates, my coaches and my GM who I am.”
He’ll have at least one more day to do that before events outside of his control could pull him off the field once again.