May 11, 2017

Quotables: Season preview

Head coach Dave Dickenson (Photo by CP/Nathan Denette)

The Stampeders’ season preview teleconference was held on Thursday. President and GM John Hufnagel, head coach Dave Dickenson and quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell answered questions from local and national media. Here’s what they had to say…

What is the status of last year’s long-term injured players?

Huff: Deron Mayo will be easing into training camp. He’ll be on the field but we just have to be careful with him to make sure that we don’t proceed to quickly. Dan Federkeil should be at practice from Day 1. Again, we’ll have to limit the amount of his reps. Junior Turner and Quinn Smith won’t be ready to play until most likely around the Labour Day time frame. Karl (Lavoie) has made a decision to retire, which is unfortunate. He made that decision a couple days before the draft.

The way the season ended, how do you use that to your advantage to start this season?

Dave: Yeah, it was disappointing but to me, (it doesn’t need) to be addressed because it’s not part of our team. You need to move on. And even if you won it, you need to move on, too. We’re going to address how to make our team better, we have some ideas and ultimately yeah, if you can learn from past experiences, great. But we have a new challenge, a new team, an exciting team. We do start the season off with Ottawa twice. That’s a huge challenge to face the Grey Cup champs twice right away so we understand we have to be ready and I think our guys will be.

Bo: Body language at the end of a game or sometimes during the game is something I can always improve on. As a young guy, I’m always learning every game, every year. So it’s part of my game I can improve and then just make sure I’m carrying myself the right ways and my coaches and teammates see that. But yeah we’ve got our eyes forward, we’re looking forward to the season. We’re looking forward to getting out there Game 1 and yeah it’s Ottawa but even if it was a different opponent we’re going to approach it the same way.

As the defending West Division champions is the target on your back?

Dave: I don’t know. We don’t get to decide who puts the target on which team. I personally don’t feel like any year I’ve been here the target hasn’t been on us so that’s nothing new for the Calgary Stampeder organization. But I don’t really feel like you know. We have a good football team, I know all the rest of the teams feel like they can win the West. We had a good season last year and we kept as many of the core players as we could but we understand it will be a new season. Things will change. It’s important for us to understand we’ve got to get better, we have to coach better and we have to make sure we win the same types of games we won last year. I believe we’re probably going to be up there but Week 1 it’s kind of a clean slate and we go from there.

Bo: I think as the Stampeder organization we’re always, you know, going to get everybody’s best game but that should be everybody’s expectation every single week. Honestly since I’ve been here, going into my sixth year, this is as strong as I’ve seen the West. Our mindset has to be that we’re one-of-five, that it’s going to be competitive every single game. It’s not going to be day you can take off or a practice you can take off or a rep you can take off. I’m sure that’s the mindset that myself and my teammates are going to portray the entire training camp.

DaVaris Daniels had an outstanding rookie season. What were your first impressions of him when you first met him?

Dave: The DaVaris Daniels we know came in ready to play but also understood the process. His dad played in pro football, you could tell he understood that he may have to bide his time a little bit and he also knew when his number was called he was going to take it and run with it. Did we know he’d be quite as good as he was? I don’t know. We thought he was going to be a good player but he fit in well in our system and he and Bo developed some a nice chemistry, made some amazing plays, had a great season. But every time you have success as a rookie other teams will look hard at your tendencies and try to find new ways to defend you so we know they’ll potentially give DaVaris some more attention, that could open other things for our offence. But he’s a big part of our offence and I’m excited to get him back and see what he does with a full schedule, a full 18 games.

Huff: DaVaris is a good pro. He came in and demonstrated very good patience. And during his time on the practice roster he did everything he could to get ready for his moment. And he got the moment and he took advantage of it like so many young players have to do coming up into this league. We knew he was a talent and things worked out for him last year and we’re hoping for big things in the future.

Will Tommie Campbell be in camp on Day 1?

Huff: Not likely he’ll be here on Day 1. He’s going through the process. We hope to get him up here on June 3. That’s where we have earmarked it and we’ll just see how it all sorts out.

Is Kamar Jorden someone you see taking on a bigger role this season?

Dave: Yeah I mean we had a big-time open competition last year and Kamar won it and basically he back-and-forth a little bit. Towards the end of the year I just felt like he was finding his legs and his spot and I felt like his confidence had grown. Once again, I felt like quarterback-receiver relationship was strengthening. I felt he was an important guy to get back this year. He’s still young and he’s got a lot more ceiling. Looking forward to him taking that step. But I think our receiving corps, there’ll be some new names, let’s just put it that way. But I think it’s going to be the strength of our team and it doesn’t hurt that Bo is throwing the ball to them so I’m not worried at all at that position. I think we are very strong.

Do you have any personal goals/milestones this season?

Bo: The only personal goal I ever write down is to try to play all 18 games. When I came into the league it was a league that a lot of quarterbacks didn’t make it through a full season. There were always a lot of injuries, a lot of turnover at this position. It’s something I always wanted to make sure I could instill in my team, that they can rely on me to be there from game to game. So whether it’s playing through injury or being smart and not taking the wrong hits, I just want to make sure I’m here playing 18 games and giving us a chance to get to The Dance and make a run at it.

Is it an open competition for the No. 2 position at quarterback behind Bo?

Dave: It’s open. We’ll have good competition there. We’ve got three guys behind Bo that we think could be that No. 2 player. I think Andrew Buckley has a better opportunity to move into that, we signed Mitchell Gale who I think will be a good addition and we’ll have a young guy in there who will keep battling. So it’s one of those things, in the off-season we lost some veteran experience (with the trade of Drew Tate) but it’s time for these guys to step up and I think we’ll be in good shape.

Your thoughts on the ratio on the offensive line this year?

Dave: We think we’re going to try to keep it as we have in the past but we do think there’s flexibility. Our roster is very fluid right now. We went into a year last year at time, many games, starting nine Canadians, just because we felt they were the best players. And we’ll do that again if that’s the case. Ultimately our offensive line had some injuries that we’re still making sure they are healthy. We’ll have great competition in the American side of the offensive line, also losing Derek Dennis, so we brought in other guys. How we’ll work that ratio will work itself out during camp and Week 1 having that extra flexibility we’ll just hopefully put the best lineup together and we’ll see if that stays the same. I do believe offensive lines that succeed, if you can put the same five you’ve got the best chance. We’ve been kind of working on keeping the same 10, that’s seems to be our number. But we’d like to hopefully play together as a group and I believe that’s the best way you grow.

How do the injuries to Quinn Smith and Junior Turner change things up?

Dave: As Huff said they’re both, I’m hoping not quite as long as Huff said, you know late August, but both certainly probably on the six-game list to start the season. That does free up a position at the defensive tackle position. We’ve tried to address that through the draft and we also think we’ve got some Americans – Bryan Hall signed with us – so I’m a big believer in that you don’t just go in and peg starters. I think you make these guys earn it. And I think you’ll see the best competition and you’ll see right people will earn the jobs without just telling someone “You’re the starter.” So that is going to be an interesting deal. We’ve got Derek Wiggan there which I think he’s done a nice job for us in the past. So we will see whether or not that’s a Canadian or an American. We’re going to try to put the best people in positions to win and succeed so that could be a ratio-changer for us.

What’s it like to see Karl Lavoie retire after two years of injuries?

Dave: We were all a little surprised because we liked Karl and we wanted the best for Karl. We feel like he could’ve a long-term CFL guy but it didn’t work out. I feel bad that it came to this but when he informed us that it was just time for him, sometimes if you’re just not all the way in, it’s not for you, probably time to move on. But he’ll be part of the Stampeder family and it’s just one of those deals it just didn’t work out whether it’s bad luck or just wasn’t in the cards for us. We were hoping, had our fingers crossed, that Karl could be the guy we drafted but that’s not the case.

Are there any statistical achievements you’d like to improve on?

Bo: Like I said 18 games is really the one goal I have. I think Dave and Huff would like to see me improve on is time counts. I usually tend to get one a game just because I’m trying to look at different things and whatnot. But stats are stats, man. They don’t mean anything to us. The only stat that matters is win-loss record so as long as I can improve that, that’s all I care about.

How are you different going into training camp this year than last year and what lessons did you learn from 2016?

Dave: I feel I’m be more comfortable speaking in front of the groups and I thought I was, just in our Florida camp down there, I just felt a little more comfortable doing even just the little things like giving the guys schedules, keeping them on point. I do think I’ve got some things to, I’ve got to make sure I stay on top of the offence, that’s because I am the offensive coordinator but I’m learning more about special teams, defence, game management and rules. Those are the things that are tough because you’ve got a lot on your plate ??? and you trust the guys that’s you’ve put in place to succeed. I’m not a micromanager, I like to let guys do their job but it’s easy because we won. If it’s not going well that’s when you have to probably alter you’re approach. I’m excited for another opportunity, another season. I’ve got a lot of good people with me. I’m super happy that the staff stayed together and we’ve still got Huff in the GM role so the same foundation is there, we just know the journey will be different and we’ve just got to handle the different turns and twists that come at us.

Is the talent pool in US getting deeper?

Huff: We were very pleased with the talent at our rookie camp in Bradenton at IMG. We had 60 players show up and we had earmarked for 24 of them to come to training camp. We have yet to sign a couple because they are still on fence trying to get another NFL opportunity. Anyone works hard in the off-season to find American talent and we think we do a good job, we put a lot of effort into it and we’ll see during training camp when these guys come up and put pads on. I do believe we provide great competition for our veteran players.

You’ve had a lot of life-changes in the off-season for you. Have you found you’ve had to change the way you approach your preparation leading into the season because of everything you’ve had to balance at home?

Bo: Honestly I haven’t. That’s because my wife back home, she knows that football is what feeds us. She knows it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. She’s taken over at home. Honestly we’re pretty lucky because our baby sleeps at night.