Sunday marked the first day of training camp for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the heat has already arrived.
The sun produced the warmth in Saskatoon at Griffiths Stadium during practice, but throughout the winter, the frustration of a disappointing campaign for the Roughriders brewed during the coldest months of the year.
With the Saskatchewan Roughriders looking to reverse their fortune from 2022, the offensive line is a positional group that will be counted on to lead that change.
When free agency opened up in February, offensive line was a focus for Saskatchewan as they locked up centre Peter Godber and tackle/guard Philip Blake to contracts.
A veteran in the Canadian Football League since 2015, Blake is looking to bring some championship experience to Saskatchewan after he was a member of the 2022 Grey Cup Champion Toronto Argonauts where the former Baylor Bear started at left tackle.
The Toronto product feels with his experience, he can providing a helping hand to the younger players.
“I played all five positions, I’ve started all five positions, so I mean, any questions the young guys have I am here to answer.”
It remains to be seen what position the 37-year-old will line up on opening night in Edmonton on June 11, as the veteran is willing to accommodate his spot so the Roughriders can field the best possible combination of five offensive linemen.
“I have fun playing all of the different positions, it’s just a different challenge every time I go out there.”
Riders Head Coach Craig Dickenson is happy to the have the 2022 Eastern All-Star now wearing green and white.
“He gives you a veteran presence, he’s tough as nails, and he can play across the board.”
Blake is returning for his second stint with the Roughriders after spending a parts of two seasons in Saskatchewan (2018-19). He felt his career took a turn for the better during his first tour with the Roughriders.
” I always tell guys coming to Saskatchewan, revive my career, in terms of my mentality, changing my mentality and starting fresh.”
It may be just the first day of camp, but the Saskatchewan Roughriders offered an interesting glimpse of their possible plans with the offensive line with the first string offence. Blake lined up at left guard, with newcomers Peter Godber at centre, Jerald Hawkins at left tackle and Eric Lofton at right tackle. Evan Johnson took the first team reps at right guard.
The second group included the team’s nominee for Most Outstanding Lineman in 2022, Logan Ferland.
Dickenson said that on opening day of camp, the depth chart is written in pencil for a reason.
“Veterans will be out because they know the system, they know what they’re doing, but we tell the guys, early in camp, it’s not a depth chart, it’s a position chart. ”
With the grind of the football season now underway, Blake tries to remind his teammates to enjoy the moment, even when the heat is on.
“Playing offensive line you get scrutiny and all this stuff, you never get called until you messed up right, so making you’re always having fun.”
Training Camp Day 1 Notebook
–Jayden Dalke took the first team reps at safety on Sunday. The former Golden Bear will be competing against Nelson Lokombo among others for the position that was vacated with last year’s starter, Mike Edem.
— Rashard Robinson, Jester Weah, and Jeremiah Poutasi were placed on the team’s suspended list on Saturday. Dickenson said on Sunday that appeared the players had packed it in, but noted the team will be following up with the players to confirm.
— Weather wise you couldn’t ask for a better start to training camp with a sunny sky and a nice breeze on Sunday. It’s expected to be a nice week, with sunshine and summer like temperatures.
— The Roughriders didn’t forgot about the Moms on Mother’s Day, all of the moms in attendance at Rider practice on Sunday received a flower to help celebrate Mother’s Day.
— On Monday, the Riders will practice at Griffiths Stadium at 9:00 am.