Rider training camp notebook: First win still to come, but Roughriders tackle some real wind

Quarterback Shea Patterson on the field during day two of the Saskatchewan Roughriders rookie camp at Griffiths Stadium. Photo taken in Saskatoon, Sask. on Thursday, May 9, 2024. PHOTO BY MICHELLE BERG /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Darren Zary

Saskatoon StarPhoenix

It was, well, just a little bit windy.

“A little bit? It was hell of a wind today — I had to put on the long-sleeve just to cut the wind down,” quipped Mace, whose Riders got to deal first-hand with some Prairie-like elements at Griffiths Stadium in Nutrien Park in Saskatoon.

“But, you know, that’s ball — you’ve got to play in any kind of element and, truth be told, if we’re talking elements, the ones that are most challenging are in the most important games. We’ll play through anything so it was good that we got that today.”

Indeed, Day 2 of Riders main camp was a blustery gridiron day.  Winds, gusting up to 40 kilometres an hour or more, blew throughout the Monday morning practice session on the University of Saskatchewan campus.

While the morning blew by, “a lot of guys” caught Mace’s eyes during Monday’s session.

For example, Mace took note of the “small intangibles” displayed by receiver Samuel Emilus.

“Just his understanding of the playbook at that position is really cool to see,” said Mace, adding that the D-line was really jelling together, as well.

“Malik Carney has been doing his thing and Micah (Johnson), we’re kind of pushing him more inside as a D tackle and he’s doing a great job. A lot of guys stepped up today. I can’t really just point out just one or two, to be honest, because there were a bunch of guys.”

The windy conditions Monday were also a good test for the quarterbacks and their arm strength, not to mention special teams.

“We got to think about that and how wind can dictate certain things throughout the game so, situationally, it’s really good for us,” noted Mace. “And even for (Offensive coordinator) Marc (Mueller), calling some plays and stuff, just understanding the elements. It’s all good to practice with.”

* * *

Extra time spent between the quarterbacks and the offensive co-ordinator appears to be paying off on offence.

“It’s been incredible,” Mace said of the relationship and chemistry shown this far.

Early on, there appears to be some understanding to the flow of the offence.

“It seems to be really enjoyable,” said Mace during his Monday post-practice media scrum. “They seem to be really efficient in having it organized and moving the ball the first two days. So far, so good on that point.”

* * *

Coach Mace was a teammate of Micah Johnson on the Calgary Stampeders. Now he’s coaching Johnson once again.

That’s nothing new.

Mace also spent time as Johnson’s coach on the Stamps.

“It’s the same (dynamic),” said Mace. “The transition from when we were teammates and the next year I was his coach (in Calgary), if anything, there would have been challenges with that but Micah, above anything else, wants to win and he’ll always listen if he thinks you can get him better … He’s just been studious from that and he’s been a leader amongst the group, one of the leaders in the room. I’m extremely pleased.”

Interestingly, Mace has a son who is also named Micah, adding that “people in the know do know” if there’s a connection there.

“Our son may be named after the man, but, (crap), you better do your job or we’ll cut you,” quipped Mace, laughing out loud.

“Just joking. That’s just the mentality. He don’t mind at all, man. It’s really cool that, forever, that name will be with our family.”

* * *

Among the Canadian rookies in camp is defensive back Katley Joseph from the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.

Mace says Joseph is already taking some steps.

“Even from his first day at rookie camp, to now, his command back there in the back end (has improved), understanding where we’re trying to get to and the formation and adjustments,”  noted Mace. “Kat is naturally a quiet guy but we ask him to be vocal, so he’s still got to step out of his shell from that. He’s doing a great job. We’re pleased with him to this point.”

* * *

Fans can expect Roughriders players to be practicing in gear Tuesday.

“The pads should be coming out tomorrow,” suggested Mace. “I know the guys are excited about that. It just might change the sound out here. We’ll see. With that, everybody gets excited but we do have to keep it professional. Our standard is our standard when it comes to that. We’ll be able to practice hard with the pads on.”