Purely based on the amount of roster turnover the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have experienced since 2013's ugly 3-15 finish, the importance of this week's rookie camp goes without saying.
Kyle Walters and his revamped scouting and player personnel staff of Danny McManus, Ted Goveia, and Drew Morris have worked tirelessly over the offseason to scour the continent for new talent to inject into head coach Mike O'Shea's lineup.
But the Blue and Gold are looking for more than just skill on the field. Both O'Shea and Walters have reiterated over the winter and spring that a roster with character and leadership qualities throughout is of paramount importance. Call it culture implementation.
"We evaluate everything," said O'Shea ahead of the three-day camp held at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg. "It's not just what they're doing out on the field — although that is a major part of it — it's how they conduct themselves in a meeting. Just little things. Are they taking notes? Are they respectful to the meal staff? It's an all-encompassing evaluation of these guys, and some guys, some of the little things really catch your eye. Some of the things you wouldn't expect. You see somebody do something like hold the door for a woman as they're walking around the facility. Those are important things sometimes."
"It's a job interview. It's a great opportunity, and they can't leave anything to chance. They have to show us everything they possibly can show us. If they do that, then whatever the outcome is for them it's out of their control as long as they've given everything they can possibly give."
The Bombers could potentially start three first-year CFLers, and possibly more; at wide receiver, guard or centre on the offensive line, rush end (a new defensive end/linebacker position coined "rover" by new defensive coordinator Gary Etcheverry), and possibly running back and defensive halfback.
Some of this hinges on the cream of Kyle Walters' 2014 draft crop, lineman Matthias Goossen, who finalized his contract Wednesday just ahead of the first official on-field workout of rookie camp.
Ideally (and that's in the strongest sense of the word), Winnipeg would like to have Goossen ready to start at centre this season — alongside fellow Canadians Chris Greaves at left guard, Steve Morley at right guard, and Patrick Neufeld at right tackle — easing the club's ratio headache drastically with four non-imports holding the offensive front.
"As a football player you want to play, but I'm not putting any expectations on myself. I'm just trying to do my best every day and try to get better, and really contribute to the team in any way possible," said this year's second-overall pick. "My mindset is to try to get better every day, do my best. And if the coaches want me to start, they want me to start, but if they don't want me to start that's totally fine. But I'm just going to put my best foot forward and make sure every play I'm doing my best. I'm really trying to, yeah, be the best Matthias Goossen I can be."