May 20th, 2024

Lions open training with a little added incentive as 2024 Grey Cup host


By Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press on May 11, 2024.

Quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. and the B.C. Lions have added incentive to win the 2024 Grey Cup. Adams Jr. (3) celebrates his third touchdown against the Calgary Stampeders, during the second half of the CFL western semifinal football game, in Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. and the B.C. Lions have added incentive to win the 2024 Grey Cup.

The game goes Nov. 17 at B.C. Place Stadium. The Saskatchewan Roughriders are the last CFL team to win a championship on home soil, doing so in 2013.

The path to the ’24 Grey Cup begins Sunday with the opening of CFL training camps.

“It would be huge for the organization and city if we could make that happen but we have to take it one practice, one game at a time,” Adams said. “It could be added pressure but it could also be, ‘Let’s look it right in the face and let’s go.’

“That’s the type of mindset I want to try to instil into the guys. Pressure is a privilege, not everyone gets this pressure “¦ so let’s look it in the face and attack it.”

B.C. won its last Grey Cup in 2011 and it came at B.C. Place Stadium after an 0-5 start that season.

B.C. has posted 12-6 records the last two years, ultimately losing in the West Division final both times to Winnipeg.

The five-foot-11, 200-pound Adams completed 68.2 per cent of his passes for a CFL-best 4,769 yards and 31 touchdowns (second to Winnipeg’s Zach Collaros, who had 33) last season. He guided B.C. to second in the West Division behind the Blue Bombers (14-4).

In February, Adams signed an extension with B.C. through the 2026 season. Although the Lions lost receiver Dominique Rhymes (Ottawa) and defensive Mathieu Betts (NFL’s Detroit Lions), it re-signed receivers Keon Hatcher, Alexander Hollins and Jevon Cottoy, receiver-returner Terry Williams, punter Stefan Flintoft and defensive back Marcus Sayles.

B.C. also added running back William Stanback, receiver Jake Harty, defensive back Ciante Evans and veteran quarterbacks Jake Dolegala and Dakota Prukop.

“Many teams look good on paper, us and everyone else in the league,” Adams said. “But at the end of the day, you’ve got to go earn it, prove it, put in the work and trust your preparation.

“That’s what training camp is for, you come together and grind it out. There will be good days, bad days but you stick together as a team and keep getting better and that’s our goal this year.”

A look at the other CFL teams heading into the start of their camps:

WEST DIVISION

Calgary Stampeders

Calgary chases a 19th straight CFL playoff berth but comes off its first losing season (6-12) since ’07. An interesting off-season move was the hiring of quarterback coach Beau Baldwin, who coached Adams, Bo Levi Mitchell and retired stars Matt Nichols and Mike Reilly, during their college tenures. That should bode well for Stampeders starter Jake Maier.

Edmonton Elks

Veteran quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson marks his CFL return after signing a one-year deal this off-season. Bethel-Thompson led the CFL in passing in 2022 and helped the Toronto Argonauts win the Grey Cup before spending ’23 in the USFL. Edmonton (4-10) last made the playoffs in 2019 and has managed just 11 regular-season wins since

Saskatchewan Roughriders

Corey Mace begins his first season as a CFL head coach with a healthy Trevor Harris at quarterback. Harris, 37, missed most of last season with a tibial plateau fracture in his right knee as Saskatchewan (6-10) missed the playoffs for a second straight year. The club added running back A.J. Ouellette (1,000-yard rusher last year with Toronto), tackle Jermarcus Hardrick (’23 West Division top lineman with Winnipeg) and defensive back Jalon Edwards-Cooper (last three years with B.C.).

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Winnipeg chases a fifth straight Grey Cup appearance but first victory since ’21. GM Kyle Walters re-signed key players like CFL rushing leader Brady Oliveira and receiver Dalton Schoen but the club lost Hardrick, quarterback Dru Brown (trade, Ottawa) and defensive back Demerio Houston (Calgary). Zach Collaros remains under centre with Chris Streveler returning as the backup.

EAST DIVISION

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Mitchell attended rookie camp with a walking boot on his right foot. He started just six games last season, his first with Hamilton, due to an adductor injury and right leg fracture that required surgery. Ticats coach Scott Milanovich said Mitchell’s boot was precautionary and Mitchell was expected to begin practising Monday. Linebacker Jordan Williams, obtained from Toronto this off-season, has retired.

Montreal Alouettes

Quarterback Cody Fajardo, the MVP of Montreal’s 28-24 Grey Cup win over Winnipeg, will see plenty of familiar faces when camp opens. GM Danny Maciocia re-signed Fajardo along with linebackers Darnell Sankey and Tyrice Beverette, running backs Jeshrun Anwti and Walter Fletcher, offensive linemen Philippe Gagnon and Kristian Matte – to name a few – to extensions.

Ottawa Redblacks

Ottawa last made the CFL playoffs in 2018. The ’24 campaign is a big one for GM Shawn Burke, who’s entering his third season at the helm. Quarterback Dustin Crum was a bright spot last year, but Burke acquired Brown and re-signed veteran Jeremiah Masoli. Rhymes and linebacker Adarius Pickett (East Division’s top defensive player with Toronto) were key additions.

Toronto Argonauts

It’s been a tough off-season for Toronto, which has finished atop the East Division three straight years and won the ’22 Grey Cup. Pickett, Ouellette, returner Javon Leake (Edmonton) and cornerback Jamal Peters (Hamilton) were among the departures, although Canadian kicker Lirim Hajrullahu returns. Quarterback Chad Kelly, the CFLs ’23 top player, was suspended by the league for the pre-season and at least nine regular-season games for violating its gender-based violence policy. The punishment came after a CFL investigation into a lawsuit filed by a former strength-and-conditioning coach against Kelly for sexual harassment and the Argos for wrongful dismissal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2024.

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