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Ticats QB Mitchell takes part in first practice of training camp


HAMILTON — Bo Levi Mitchell took a positive first step Monday.

The veteran quarterback practised in the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' first full training camp workout. The 34-year-old Texan participated in 30 to 40 plays just five days after arriving at rookie camp with a walking boot on his right foot.

Mitchell suffered a right leg fracture last season that required surgery. That injury, along with an adductor ailment, limited the two-time Grey Cup champion and league MVP to just six starts in 2023, his first campaign with Hamilton.

Scott Milanovich — in his first season as Hamilton's head coach — said last week Mitchell wore the boot as a precaution and was expected to practise Monday. Now comes monitoring how Mitchell feels physically and being smart about his load management.

"It's a quick camp so it's a fine line between getting them enough reps to be ready for the season and then making sure they're healthy for that," Milanovich said. "We have a plan to give him more every single day but we're going to have to get some feedback from him on how it's feeling.

"You just don't want to have any more setbacks."

Mitchell said he felt fine Monday, although he participated in six-on-seven passing drills versus Ticats defenders and never ran. Mitchell had athletic tape around the calf area of his right leg and at times seemed to approach the line gingerly.

"I felt good throwing the ball, put some good balls out there and made some good reads," Mitchell said. "Just got to get footwork underneath me a little bit more but felt great.

"At age 34, if I will ever be 100 per cent again, we'll see. Did a bunch today . . . just kind of ramping up each day."

There's no doubt in Mitchell's mind he'll be ready for Hamilton's season opener in Calgary on June 7. That will be a homecoming for Mitchell, who played 10 seasons with the Stampeders (2012-19, 2021-22) before joining the Ticats.

Mitchell said he wore the boot following a setback in training roughly three weeks before the start of camp. He added it was more the result of bad timing than overextending himself.

"I wasn't doing anything stupid, something just happened during a workout that didn't feel great and it lingered on," Mitchell said. "I wanted to prove Marcellus (Ticats strength-and-conditioning coach Marcellus Bowman) right with all of the time he put in.

"It was frustrating for me mentally because my biggest thing is I wanted to be here conditioning to show how good I looked at 34 coming out and sprinting with the young guys and being out there."

Hamilton had high hopes for Mitchell after signing him to a three-year, $1.62-million deal before the '23 season. But Mitchell completed 78-of-132 passes (59.1 per cent) for 1,031 yards with six touchdowns and 10 interceptions with the Ticats.

In January, Mitchell restructured the remaining two years of his deal to stay with Hamilton.

Injuries to Mitchell and veteran backup Matt Shiltz (now with Calgary) resulted in rookie Taylor Powell making nine starts last year. The six-foot-two, 207-pound native of Fayetteville, Ark., completed 197-of-292 passes (67.4 per cent) for 2,283 yards with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions while rushing 28 times for 196 yards (seven-yard average) and a touchdown.

Hamilton signed Powell to an extension Sunday through the 2025 season.

"He's certainly more confident, he knows he belongs now and there's something to be said for that," Milanovich said of Powell. "Certainly I'm pleased with what he's done over the last six, eight months, I have confidence in him.

"He still has to take leaps. I mean, we won some games but we were by no means dominant when he was playing, even when he was playing well. We've all got to take the next step and get better."

Mitchell gushed when asked about Powell.

"One of the most underrated things as a quarterback is your relationship with your teammates and Taylor might be one of the best I've ever seen at that," Mitchell said. "It's huge to kind of watch what he's done and how he has progressed so quickly with playing nine games last year and being put in a position that's very tough for a rookie and coming out with the results he did.

"But my favourite thing with him is just consistency, he does the same thing every single day. Every time I walk into his room he's reading the (playbook) and taking notes. It's who he is and consistency at the quarterback position is key."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2024.