It’s great to be back.
That was the common theme following day one of training camp for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who punctuated the start of camp with a big signing on defence.
“I’m happy to be back out here, it feels good being back,” said sophomore running back C.J. Gable following the Cats’ first practice at McMaster University’s Ron Joyce Stadium.
New quarterback Zach Collaros said “it’s exciting, I thought we got a lot of good work in, I got a lot of reps, a lot of plays. It was moving kind of fast at first and once you’re out there for a little bit it’s just football again.”
Receiver Andy Fantuz said “It’s nice to see all the guys, we’re all excited to try to finish what we left undone from last year,” referring to Hamilton’s 45-23 loss in November’s Grey Cup in Regina.
Head coach and general manager Kent Austin liked what he saw on day one as well.
“It’s always good to get back on the field. The coaches had cabin fever. I thought it was a pretty good practice, pretty good energy, we’re pretty pleased with the first day,” said Austin, who’s entering his second season at the helm of the defending East Division champions.
Gable, a USC alumni, says apart from training for the 2014 CFL season, Gable says he “hung out” with his family.
Gable says he didn’t realize how long the Canadian Football League off-season was until the itch to return to the field hit him well before the start of camp.
Last year, Gable was a wide eyed rookie who was battling Chevon Walker for Hamilton’s starting job at tailback.
Gable not only won the job, he ended up being the East Division nominee for the CFL’s Rookie of the Year Award after rushing for 782 yards and 7 touchdowns and making 54 receptions for 598 yards and 5 TD’s.
Walker was made expendable in last December’s expansion draft and was taken by the Ottawa RedBlacks.
The 26-year-old Gable says he wants this year’s Ticats squad “to come out firing, and not lose one game and then win the next, we want to come out on a roll.”
The California native admits he was a little hesitant at the start of his rookie campaign in 2013, but entering year two, “I can now just go out there and play without thinking that much and just have fun… the coaches have more confidence in me and that’s good.”
When asked about his number one focus at camp, Collaros wants to take advantage of every chance he gets, saying “every rep is crucial for me and I just have to be locked in at all times.”
As far as a potential work stoppage in the CFL is concerned, Collaros says there has been a little talk between players, but says “our main focus is just football. We feel like it’s going to be all sorted out in due time. We all want to play football.”
Fantuz, who is entering his third season with the Cats, has averaged 68 catches for 933 yards and 5 touchdowns over his two seasons in Tiger Town, although he missed six regular season games due to injury in 2013.
He made 7 receptions for 76 yards in the loss to the Roughriders in the CFL championship game.
The 30-year-old admits he and his teammates may be a little sore in a couple of weeks but “once that first game comes rolling around we’ll be excited to play I’m sure.”
Fantuz says Collaros, “Looks good, looks confident, does well in the huddle, he’s got a presence in there and commands attention and I was really impressed with a few of the throws” that he made.
After the first practice of camp, the Tiger-Cats announced the signing of free agent defensive tackle Ted Laurent.
The 26-year-old Montreal native had 36 defensive tackles with the Edmonton Eskimos last season, along with 4 sacks and a forced fumble.
The 2012 West Division All-Star has recorded 73 defensive tackles and 11 sacks in his three CFL seasons, all with the Esks.
Before camp began, the Ticats signed former Calgary Stampeders and Toronto Argonauts defensive back Demetrice Morley and Troy University QB Corey Robinson.
Hamilton has also placed left guard Peter Dyakowski on the nine game injured list following his knee injury in the 101st Grey Cup.
Dyakowski, who was doing some light jogging at camp Sunday, isn’t expected to return to action until September.
By the way, you can see Dyakowski with Alex Trebek on “Jeopardy” this coming Tuesday night.
Hamilton has also placed defensive tackle Myles Wade on the suspended list for personal reasons.
Training camp continues Monday morning at McMaster University.
Hamilton will open the preseason on June 14 when they host the Montreal Alouettes at McMaster.
The Cats close out the exhibition schedule with a date in Toronto on June 19 at Varsity Stadium.
Hamilton’s regular season opener is scheduled for June 29 in Saskatchewan, seven months after their last meeting in the CFL final.