Most of us have heard of the saying, “Practice like you play.” It implies that full effort in practice will translate to better success during games when points are on the line.
Well, that saying doesn’t necessarily apply to pro football anymore.
Over the last two days, the Calgary Stampeders have had a couple of close calls to remind them that, in their line of work, working smart is much better than working hard.
On Wednesday, late in practice, the Stamps’ starting defence was facing the scout team. A deep pass was made to a streaking receiver on a flag route. The pinnie vested player went all out to make the catch, diving for a ball that was well out of reach. Incomplete pass. Not a big deal, right? Wrong.
Covering the practice roster receiver was Brandon Smith, the veteran defensive back, defensive captain and key contributor. The two became tangled up and Smith appeared to take the worst of the commotion.
Several members of the coaching staff were not happy with what they had just witnessed.
“That was stupid!” someone screamed.
“Learn how to practice!” uttered someone else.
Those were just a couple of loud comments that were easily heard.
Smith seemed fine as he shook it off and was ready to go for the next snap.
But with CFL rosters as thin as they are, according to Stamps head coach Dave Dickenson, health has to be of the utmost importance – especially at practice.
“You have to understand who’s working, whose drill is it. It’s not full compete. Don’t ever go to the ground, ever. Even if you’re on offence don’t be diving. The reason for that is you taking someone else’s job at risk as well, not only yours… It’s not like we have 100 guys here. We have who we have and we have to take care of each other.”
The other incident occurred on Tuesday involving receiver Juwan Brescacin.
The Stamps Slotback made an impressive grab just inside the sideline before his momentum carried him out of bounds and over the advertising boards where he landed harshly on the concrete with his right shoulder absorbing the brunt of the fall.
Brescacin finished practice on Tuesday and was a full participant the following day but, perhaps, he will save those kinds of efforts for when it really matters.
Consistency key for Dickenson
Dickenson says he needs more consistency from his squad.
“I’ve seen the performance already. I’ve seen that they can do it. I just need to see them do it over and over. I need you to do it consistently. You can’t be great one play and not get it done the next play. So as far as what I’m seeing in practice is an inconsistent squad that really doesn’t have the details of our system down yet.”
“We’re who we are but I want to see better [consistency]. Expectations for me [are] just go to out here and get better every single week. Our expectation is we need to show that we’re better than we were last week.”
Putting pressure on Reilly
The Stamps didn’t record any sacks in their season opener against the Ottawa Redblacks, a 32-28 loss. They have a chance to change that Saturday night against the BC Lions (0-2) at McMahon Stadium.
Dickenson knows that Lions quarterback Mike Reilly has seen the turf a lot in his first two games as a Lion.
“We know that the winning formula to winning football games is pressuring the QB and harassing the QB so that’s something that we’re looking to do and also, inversely, protecting our guy”
Defensive line question marks
There are still question marks surrounding the Stamps’ front four on the defensive line.
Ese Mrabure isn’t up to full speed yet although he is Dickenson’s preferred choice. He didn’t finish the Stamps opener and was also the player who took the unnecessary roughness penalty that kept the Stamps’ defence on the field instead of having a two and out, resulting in an Ottawa touchdown).
If Mrabure can’t go Saturday, then it will be between rookie Vincent Desjardins or recently signed veteran Jabar Westerman.