July 11, 2021

CAMP NOTEBOOK | Lee, Veterans Lovin’ It More Than Ever

TJ Lee spent a good 30 minutes after Sunday practice doing a little extra work. Now granted, he needed to be close by for his post-practice media zoom availability. But that’s just Lee’s overall mindset: he loves football too much to take the foot off the gas peddle at this stage of his career. Being away from it for as long as he had only made him appreciate it even more.

“It is the love of the game, the fact that miss it and I want to re-build good habits,” said Lee following the first official Lions practice on Sunday.

“I want to make sure I touch the ball over 50 times every day so when that one occasional ball comes over to my side, I can do it effortlessly and not have to think about it. It’s those simple practices. I want to work on my deficiencies as a player so that I can be wholesome. I want to make sure that I’m conditioned. I’ve got to hold myself to a personal standard as well if I want to play the way I want to play. If I want to lead, I’ve got to have a different standard,” added the club’s longest-serving player on defence.

As Lee was going through his bonus sessions, quarterback Michael Reilly was jogging laps around the Hillside Stadium. The theme of the day amongst the entire group appeared to be making up for the lost time. Number 13 was right in his element from the beginning, commanding the first-team offence with authority.

“It’s been a really, really good start to camp, in my opinion,” said Reilly.

“Obviously, it’s super high-energy. We haven’t been on a field in whatever it is, 18-19 months. Pretty well-documented. We had high expectations the guys were going to be fired up and ready to play ball. If this was a normal training camp,  I would have said the mental mistakes were at a minimum. But given the amount of time we were off, I was actually very impressed. It shows the coaching staff used the time off really well and the virtual meetings were very beneficial.”

The coaches have indeed remained patient and paid their dues throughout this crazy year and a half. It was neat to see them leading their various position groups on a windy morning in Kamloops.

As for the players, they will continue to embrace the grind and any extra work that might be required. For Lee, that also means taking the time to help the young guys feel welcome.

“We’ve had seven days to meet because we’ve had zoom meetings,” he added.

“I’ve been very open as far as meeting guys extra and giving them extra time to understand. They’re coming in with a pretty good understanding so that they’ll be able to play faster.”

Training Camp Day 1- Back To The Routine

All hands were on deck for two-and-a-half hours of non-padded practice on Sunday morning in Kamloops. Day one, combined with only helmets and shorts, can be a hard one to break down. But it’s probably fair to say both sides of the ball had their share of success during the team drills, especially both sides of the line. Defensive newcomers Lewis Neal and  Josh Banks each had a knockdown during the same team period. Head coach Rick Campbell was impressed with that group altogether, saying:

“They did a good job today. One indicator of that is that we were lining up onside, which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but we’ve got a whole group of guys who are used to playing defensive line without lining up a yard off the ball, so I’m glad they’re paying attention. They knew their stuff. I think Leroy Blugh, Claudell Louis and the d-line have done their homework and seemed prepared and ready to go. I’m excited to watch the film, too.”

Camp Notebook Day 1: the veterans are back and hungrier than ever, while coach Campbell commends his group for solid start.

A football lifer at heart, Campbell has waited a long time as well to get back into the full-on football life. He described how he felt walking onto that field for the first time.

“It was fun. The enthusiasm was great. It was just fun to be out on the field, doing football again. A little emotional for me, I’ve got to say; being off for so long; not knowing what was going to happen. Being back out and doing this again at training camp, it’s pretty good.”

Outside of the usual suspects on offence, newcomer Lucky Whitehead performed well and showed some of the speed he is expected to bring to the receiving core. With the numbers in camp being what they are to being with, all of the newcomers will do their best to stand out early.

Next Up

In a break of routine from years past, the squad will shift to night practices until Friday. Tuesday’s activity will be from 7:00-10:25 pm and be closed to the public.

Matt Baker: