Pinch yourself if you must, this is not a dream. After a 19-month hiatus, the Alouettes training camp will finally take off in less than 24 hours. Our General Manager, Danny Maciocia, reports that behind the scenes, the operations team is hopping on pins and needles.
“We can’t wait to get out there and get to know each other. There are people like myself in operations who are here for the first time and we’re all going to go through this together,” says Maciocia. “When you look at the talent, we’ve been able to draft, I think everyone is really looking forward to getting back on the field.”
Training camp this year will be historic given the context. Bearing in mind that the 2020 CFL season had been cancelled, Maciocia says the time off could be a factor for players who haven’t played in significant games since November 2019. Of course, the players are professionals and have done everything in their power to stay in shape. Not to mention that our medical staff and trainers were in regular contact with the players to ensure they would be ready for training camp.
During the season, all players and coaches will be tested regularly. As for vaccinations, Maciocia says many players are already vaccinated, including some with their two doses. However, those who have not been vaccinated will be encouraged to do so, not forced.
“It’s a pretty strict protocol. We get tested frequently and we wear our mask, but for us, the most important thing is to follow it closely because we want to avoid surprises,” he said.
The next hurdle will be to put together the best roster out of this training camp, which will not include any preseason games. According to Maciocia, there are some gut-wrenching decisions on the horizon with the 100 or so athletes picked up through two rounds of drafts and as free agents.
“The theme of the camp is that every day you have to compete and not take anything for granted. Every time the players get on the field, every time they get involved, it’s going to be noted and that’s how we’re going to get our answers.”
Adapting to professional football is one thing but adapting to a post-pandemic reality is another. While the sacrifices made created a lot of pressure, Maciocia expects to be able to count on his entire team to bring home the Grey Cup.
“The team we choose will be made up of healthy players who have been able to endure the three weeks of training camp. A team that shares chemistry in the locker room, that is united with the same goal, and that will push in the same direction. That’s going to be the biggest challenge over the next few weeks.”
Regardless, we can all agree that a 2021 season is already a win in itself. We know the Alouettes are going to be good, as we prepare for a shortened regular season. To say this camp will be tough is an understatement, especially considering the large handful of athletes who will show up at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday morning pumped up for a spot on our team. The stakes are high, but the potential is there and as our GM so aptly puts it:
“We need to give ourselves a chance to win all our games. If we can compete throughout camp, there is no limit to our potential.”
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