Calvillo ready to lead Als' bid for third straight Grey Cup

The Canadian Press
6/4/2011 4:18:24 PM
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MONTREAL -- Quarterback Anthony Calvillo is ready for what may be a wild season for the defending Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes.

Not only will the 38-year-old try to lead the club to a third straight title, which hasn't been done in the Canadian Football League since Edmonton won five in a row from 1978 to 1982, but Calvillio will also be chasing a piece of history.

The Los Angeles native needs 4,221 yards to break the record of 72,381 career passing yards set by Damon Allen in a 23-year career from 1985 to 2007. That's less than an average year for Calvillo, who had 4,839 yards in only 15 games last season.

"I'm mentally getting myself ready to talk about it all year long because I know it's going to come," Calvillo said. "My main focus is not to really concentrate on that.

"So many things have to line up, to be healthy and consistent for so many games, to get to that point. I know as we get closer we're going to talk about it more. But believe me, when it's done, if it gets done, it will be a huge achievement and I'm definitely going to soak it in. But at this time, it's not at the top of my mind."

Calvillo has had plenty on his mind since he revealed following Montreal's 21-18 victory over Saskatchewan in November that he would need treatment on a cancerous lesion on his thyroid gland. The thyroid was removed, and Calvillo said he felt no effects and was able to train normally, although he has to take medication to replace the gland's functions.

He had worried the procedure would leave him with a thin, squeaky voice, and was greatly relieved to find it didn't. Quarterbacks need to boom out snap signals for all his teammates can hear.

"Of all the side effects after surgery, it was more about the vocals because as a quarterback, I know how important it is to use the snap count and all that," he said. "But every camp my voice usually goes regardless, so this year won't be any different.

"I think about three weeks after surgery my voice was back to normal and then I didn't worry about it."

Calvillo collected his ring, a diamond encrusted bauble featuring side-by-side Grey Cups for their back-to-back championships, with his teammates on Friday night. They had medicals on Saturday before the main camp opens Sunday in Sherbrooke, Que.

The roster is mostly set, but there will be battles for a new kicker, a receiver, a tailback and in the secondary.

Gone is the receiving end of so many of Calvillo's passes since he joined the Alouettes in 1998 -- slotback Ben Cahoon, the league's all-time receptions leader who retired and is now coaching receivers at Brigham Young University.

Fourth-year coach Marc Trestman expects to move receiver S.J. Green to slotback, which opens a spot at receiver, perhaps for former Roughrider Preachae Rodriguez or former NFLers Jerry Porter and Dallas Baker.

"My wife and I joked 'Who am I going to eat with now on road trips (with Cahoon gone)?"' Calvillo said. "His presence on and off the field is going to be missed."

In the past, Cahoon was the player Calvillo turned to when a tough first down was needed, but he was already being slowly phased out of that role last season, being called perhaps 50 per cent of the time instead of 90 per cent. The six-foot-three Green gives Calvillo a much taller target for the same plays.

The Alouettes could end up with a flock of tall receivers. Rodriguez is six-foot-five, Baker's six-foot-three, Porter six-foot-two, while incumbent Jamel Richardson is six-foot-three.

"To a certain extent, it opens up our options, especially on second down and medium because there weren't a lot of guys who could cover Jamel man-to-man," said Calvillo. "S.J. brings that same body type, that same physical presence, and he'll be another weapon we'll be able to use, not only on second down, but in the red zone because he's a big, physical target."

The club also has receivers Kerry Watkins and Brian Bratton coming back.

At tailback, the popular Avon Cobourne signed as a free agent with Hamilton and Trestman has said the job is backup Brandon Whitaker's to lose. Former Green Bay Packers star Ahman Green and former Tiger-Cat DeAndra Cobb will be his main competition, although Yvenson Bernard or Emmanual Marc could cause a surprise.

It may come down to which is the best blocking back, an area in which Cobourne excelled.

"It's big step up from the last couple of years, but I still have to go out and compete and win the starting job," said Whitaker, a stocky but speedy back in his third year in Montreal. "My mentality coming in is that I'm fighting for a job just like any other year.

"It was good to hear (Trestman's endorsement). It gave me a little motivation. But nothing's changed."

The strangest battle is the one to replace import kicker-punter Damon Duval, who was not offered a new contract. The Alouettes traded a first round draft pick to B.C. for Sean Whyte, then drafted kicker Brody McKnight who won't be available for a year, and then brought CFL veteran Sandro DeAngelis to camp.

Trestman said the key is that the candidates are all Canadian, which opens space for another American player elsewhere in the lineup.

Mathieu Proulx, who shared the safety position with Etienne Boulay, retired and Tad Crawford was signed from B.C., likely to backup Boulay.

Offensive lineman Paul Lambert also called it quits, but the club has five experienced blockers in tackles Josh Bourke and Jeff Perrett, guards Scott Flory and Andrew Woodruff and centre Luc Brodeur-Jourdain. First-round picks Dylan Steenbergen and Kristian Matte as well as Ryan Bomben have a shot at seeing more playing time.

The defensive backfield may have a new member in talented but volatile cornerback Dwight Anderson, who signed from Calgary. He may give incumbent De'Andra Dix a battle in camp.

Third-string quarterback Chris Leak also left, but Calvillo, Adrian McPherson and Ricky Santos remain.

Anthony Calvillo (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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