Redblacks lose but Ottawa Wins; Recap of 1st ever pre-season game

By: Santino Filoso

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After years of suffering from through Gliebermans, Watters, Enemies of Lansdowne, and the painstakingly drawn out CBA negotiations between CFL players and owners, on Saturday night Ottawa finally resumed it’s rightful place in the CFL. The Redblacks traveled to Regina to play a home game in their road uniforms. Here are our highlights, in case you missed any of the action.

Pre-game:

– Can’t help but comment on how sharp the Redblacks road uniforms look. The white helmets are a refreshing change

– There was a mascot showdown just before the opening kick between Redblacks mascot and Ottawa legend Big Joe Mufferaw  and a rodent known as Gainer, who apparently represents the local Regina team. It’s interesting to note that after said showdown, Gainer was not seen again and Big Joe’s axe looked a little notched (allegedly).

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– Tons of empty seats in Legoland… I mean Mosaic stadium. So much for the GREENWHITES having the most die-hard fans in the league. Attendance was later announced as 13,014, but I doubt it.

1st quarter:

– You couldn’t have written a better opening 2 minutes and 4 plays for the franchise’s history. It started off with a Justin Phillips sack tackle of QB Tino Sunseri, continued with a forced incompletion, punctuated by a 76-yard punt return by rookie Jamill Smith to the Green Riders 2 yard line, before being finished off by a Chevon Walker rushing TD.

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– The 5′ 6″ and 155-pound Jamill Smith’s 76-yard punt return was a thing of beauty and an incredible display of pure speed

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Smith tackled just short of the endzone

– Walker enters Ottawa history as the 1st player to score a TD in Redblacks history

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The historic 1st TD in Redblacks history

– Justin Phillips limped off the field on the ensuing kickoff, not because he was hurt but because he’s a nice guy and wanted to spare the GREENWHITES QBs from further bruising

– The 1st completion in Redblacks history was Henry Burris to Marcus Henry, allowing R-Nation to witness the birth of Henry² (Squared)

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– Ottawa’s run game looked strong with the o-line opening up some huge holes

– Redblacks coaching staff served notice to the league that we’re back and not to be trifled with when Offensive Coordinator Mike Gibson called a play which used the umpire as a pick

– Travis Brown earns the honour of becoming the 1st Redblacks player in history to be penalized drawing a flag for no yards

– Former Eskimo Marcus Henry makes another catch, this time an incredible one hander. Henry²  should be a connection to be reckoned with this season

– After playing 10 snaps, Burris headed to the sidelines and was replaced by QB Danny O’Brien. This ensued:

– Continuing their trend of stealing all things Ottawa, the Wheaties get their own big punt return, this one for 75 yards and a TD

2nd quarter:

– Palardy misses a 34 yard field goal, pushing it wide right

– Jonathon Williams takes a tripping penalty

– Jeff Hunt drops an interesting tidbit while being interviewed saying that Ottawa has the most retired numbers of any team in the league #richhistory

– Durant enters the game and moves the ball at will

– Safety Eric Fraser looks strong in run support, making a number of crunching tackles

– Redblacks continue their game long trend of mightily struggling in punt coverage

– With 3:33 left, the Redblacks snuff out a screen and force a fumble which is recovered by first round pick Antoine Pruneau

– O’Brien flashes his potential on a 15-yard roll out completion before an overthrow

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QB Danny O’Brien

– Justin Phillips puts an exclamation mark on a fine first half of work with another solid tackle

3rd quarter

– Redblacks kicked off to start the 2nd half but quickly re-gain possession thanks to a T.J. Hill interception

– DeMarco proceeds to get Buck Pierced

– Antoine Pruneau has his ‘welcome to the pro’s moment when he gets truck-sticked by Green Rider running back Toston

– Weber leads Green Riders on a long march down the field ending with WR Swain hauling in his 2nd TD grab of the night, making it 21-10

– Pruneau throws a huge hit, showing he can give as good as he gets

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Big hit by Antoine Pruneau on Sask QB Doege

– Trayvon Patterson makes the mistake of fielding a punt in the endzone and is quickly tackled at the 1

– DeMarco completes a pass to Fred Rouse for 26 yards and gives the offense some breathing room

– A beautiful 60-yard TD strike from DeMarco to Patterson rights a wrong and caps a 109 yard drive, closing the gap to 21-17

4th quarter

– Running back D. J. Harper breaks a nice run for a first down

– Rouse makes another catch and picks up some good YAC (yards after the catch), but seems to aggravate his injury and hobbles off the field

– The Redblack sack attack continues when Justin Capicciotti crushes the Sask QB

– Harper lowers his shoulders and pushes the pile for another first down

– With 8:19 remaining a promising drive is snuffed out with a DeMarco interception after an overthrow

– DL Andrew Marshall sniffs out the QB draw with a meaty tackle

– 6:12 left and pinned at the 5 yard line, Alex Carder enters the game for the Redblacks, he completes a 9-yard pass on a nice roll out and strings together a few first downs before telegraphing a throw and getting picked off with 3:23 remaining in the game

– Redblacks get the ball back with 2 min left and despite converting a 3rd and 17, the potential game-winning drive stalls. Ottawa turns it over on downs at the Wheaties 50 with just under a minute left in the game

Final thoughts:

Though they lost on the scoreboard, the Redblacks can hold their heads high. They got a number of strong performances from their starters, Burris and Walker looked sharp and the Henry²  connection figures to be potent. Also, Jamill Smith demonstrated great speed returning punts.

On the downside, punt coverage was suspect. The Redblacks need to tighten up their tackling or they will be gashed all season long. None of the backup QBs really shined, as they all made numerous overthrows, though DeMarco did have one scoring drive. All in all, it was an incredible night for Ottawa and a history one for the league. The Redblacks showed that Ottawa is back and that we won’t be pushed around.

@RedBlackGade

Photos from the Ottawa Redblacks Facebook page

Redblacks news & notes ahead of inaugural pre-season game

A week-and-a-half into training camp and just a couple days away from their first game in franchise history (albeit of the pre-season persuasion), it is a busy time in Ottawa Redblacks land. Here’s a quick look at what’s been going down:

Players strike averted… We’re pretty sure, anyway
After what has been a sometimes nasty PR battle between the Canadian Football League and it’s Players Association over their expired Collective Bargaining Agreement, a tentative deal was reached late on Saturday, June 7th. While a few CFL veterans took to Twitter to voice their displeasure with the proposed new CBA, which, among other things, includes a salary cap increase from $4,400,000 to $5,000,000 per team, the expectation is that the deal will be ratified by the players by the weekend.

Tough situation for the players. While they no doubt deserve their fair share, the CFL hasn’t exactly been a cash cow over the years, with several owners funding years worth of losses in the name of community stewardship. That said, with the roundly celebrated news of the CFL’s new TV deal with TSN, reportedly bringing each team an additional $2-3 million annually, the players had to be hoping for a bigger slice of the pie.

Turf laid at TD Place
With nearly 1,000 workers on site each day, things are happening pretty quickly down at Lansdowne. Within about a week’s time, the new field was first paved and then covered with brand new FieldTurf. Here are a few progress shots:

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A thing of beauty.

For those that may not be aware, the turf OSEG purchased allows them to easily apply and remove painted lines, meaning that the Redblacks field and Fury FC pitch will be sport-specific.

Oh yeah – and we’re getting one heck of a big scoreboard!

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For more on the forthcoming scoreboard, here’s our earlier piece.

TSN 1200 Radio play-by-play team to be announced soon
According to TSN 1200 radio personality Lee Versage, the Redblacks radio play-by-play team will be announced real soon. Here’s hoping long-time Sens voice (and one-time Rough Riders voice) Dean Brown is the man at the helm. Would bring some serious credibility (and fun) to the broadcast. Fingers crossed.

Intrasquad game in Gatineau
As further proof of their dedication to developing the fan base on both sides of the river, le Rouge et Noir hosted their first-ever intrasquad game at Mont-Bleu Sports Complex in Gatineau on June 7th. Some 700-1,000 fans took in the glorified practise session, with players, staff and the cheer team hanging around afterwards for an autograph session. By all accounts, OSEG put on a great show. Some pics:

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Player moves, injuries
As is to be expected, there have been a number of roster moves as camp has entered it’s 10th day. RB Jordan Roberts was a surprise early cut. QB Corey Leonard and DL Brandon Denson were also let go on Monday. Canadian DL Vincent Desloges was also technically released, but has a year of university eligibility remaining and will go back to Laval for one more year. QB Alex Carder has been added to the camp roster.

Veteran LB Anton McKenzie suffered a likely season-ending torn bicep, a big loss for a young team.

WR Fred Rouse was carted off the field on Tuesday with an apparent leg injury. No updates since about noon.

As a side note, would be nice for the team to announce these moves themselves on Twitter/Facebook, as opposed to having local media do it. Just a suggestion.

Here’s a link to the current roster.

Some interesting results from season ticket holder survey
This from an email sent to STHs.

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Props to OSEG for sharing these results.

Real football on Saturday night!

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6:00 PM ET on TSN2. Oh, baby.

@OTTRoughRiders

A look at the Redblacks training camp roster

By: Santino Filoso

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With the Ottawa Redblacks inaugural training camp currently underway at Carleton University, now is a perfect time to take a look at some of the 80+ roster of hopefuls general manager Marcel Desjardins has assembled over the past seven months. While certain starters are already set in stone, there are still numerous jobs up for grabs.

Quarterbacks

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The QB crew

Even with the loss of a disgruntled Kevin Glenn, the Redblacks are deeper than most CFL teams at QB. Barring injury, Henry Burris will be the starter with Thomas DeMarco backing him up, leaving Corey Leonard and Danny O’Brien to grow as development projects and fight for the third-string job. At 39, Burris still has a lot left in the tank and his arm is as strong as ever. DeMarco got significant playing time last year as he filled in for the injured Travis Lulay (and more then held his own), which bodes well for the Redblacks should Burris go down.

Running Backs

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Chevon Walker

With a stable of capable RBs, it will be very interesting to see who emerges as the guy to go for the Redblacks, or if Head Coach Rick Campbell decides to take a running by committee approach. Chevon Walker has the most distinguished career and has to be considered the early favourite, especially when you consider his familiarity with Burris from their time in Hamilton. Jordan Roberts is a dark horse to be a serious impact player. He dominated in college and with his speed and catching ability seemingly has the skill set to thrive in the CFL. (UPDATE: Looks like Roberts has been released) John Delahunt and Patrick Lavoie will be charged with lead blocking when the Redblacks run out of formations that include a fullback. Eric O’Neal and Michael Hayes round out the group and will also fight for carries.

Wide Recievers

To say that the Redblacks have a logjam at receiver would be an understatement. With so many players competing for a job, nobody can afford to have a bad practice. Veteran WR Paris Jackson is the elder statesman of this group and should have a breakout year after being under-utilized the past few seasons in BC. The WR group consists of imports like DJ Woods, Carlton Mitchell, Tim Maypray, and Travon Patterson, all of whom boast serious speed, while the non-imports consist of guys like Simon Le Marquand,  Aaron Hargreaves and Garrett Burgess. Fred Rouse and 2014 2nd round pick Scott MacDonnell could see a lot of redzone reps due to favourable height match-ups.

(UPDATE: Redblacks have reportedly signed import WR Marcus Henry, days after he was released by the Edmonton Eskimos; Redblacks have also reportedly released former Ottawa U Gee Gee WR Delroy Clarke)

Offensive Linemen

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Jon Gott

It isn’t an exaggeration to say that much of the Redblacks season will go as all-star lineman Jon Gott goes. He was the centre of attention on draft day and he’ll be the Redblacks starting centre, in charge of making all the protections calls to keep Burris upright. Gott could be flanked by guys like Joe Eppele, Nate Menkin, James Lee and J’Micheal Deane. No matter who winds up starting, you can be sure that they’ll be big, as every OL at the Redblacks camp is at least 6’3″ and pushing 300 pounds.

Defensive Linemen

The defensive line will be led by expansion draft steal Keith Shologan, a heavy hitter with a knack for stuffing the run.  Guys like Justin Phillips, Moton Hopkins, Dimetrio Tyson, Zack Evans, Jonathan Williams and Justin Capicciotti will provide depth to a DL rotation that should keep opposing QBs on their toes all game long.

Linebackers

A group of experienced veterans will lead Ottawa’s linebacking core. Jason Pottinger, James Green, T.J. Hill, Malik Jackson and Anton McKenzie are all proven CFL vets with big game experience. Travis Brown, Jeremiah Green, Jasper Simmons, Jordan Verdone and Will Heyward round out this athletic and savvy group of thumpers.

Secondary

Amateur pilot and former Stamps safety Eric Fraser will be the focal enforcer of a “No Fly Zone” along with a revitalized Jovon Johnson. Former Saints DB Reggie Jones could wind up playing a significant role in the secondary and look for 1st round pick and jack of all trades Antoine Pruneau to frequently be on the field, despite being a rookie.

Special Teams

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Paulo Henriques

Ottawa native Kevin Scott is living out his dream of playing for his hometown as the Redblacks long snapper, while non-import Justin Palardy is locked in a fierce battle with import Paulo Henriques for kicking duties. Kick returning duties could all to either Tim Maypray, Antoine Pruneau or one of the RBs or WRs who distinguish themselves throughout the pre-season.

Desjardins has put together a nice blend of veterans and rookies, and nearly every positional group boasts a few players with significant CFL experience. One thing that already stands out, even after only a few days of camp, is that the Redblacks look like a very fast team. It’ll be interesting to see who distinguishes themselves during the two pre-season games and ultimately makes the team; hopefully Coach Campbell has some tough decisions to make.

Click here for the complete Redblacks training camp roster and here for the Redblacks training camp schedule, which is open to the public.

@RedBlackGade

(Photos courtesy of Ottawa Redblacks Facebook page)

Recap of the Ottawa Redblacks 2014 Draft

By: Santino Filoso

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On Tuesday night the Redblacks threw the media and their fans a curveball half an hour before the draft when they traded their first ever 1st overall pick and the rights to recently retired OL Marwan Hage to the Calgary Stampeders for 28-year-old divisional all star OL Jon Gott. Last season, Gott played 15 games for the Stamps, 14 at guard and one at centre. Redblacks GM Desjardins justified the move saying:

“Trading for Jon Gott was by far a better option for us than making the first overall selection. Our coaching staff is familiar with Jon as a player and as a person, so we know he’ll be a strong performer and a good teammate. Jon has proven himself to be a reliable, responsible and durable CFL player and we’re happy to have him in the REDBLACKS organization.”

Some people were a bit miffed by the move, but as noted by one of the funniest CFL accounts on twitter:

In all seriousness though, while it would’ve been fun to watch Lavertu blossom into a starter and pancake guys for the next decade, Gott addresses an immediate need and will start from Day One. He’s an experienced all-star with a number of playoff games (including a Grey Cup win) under his belt. Not to mention he’s got the best beard in the league.

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Also for those worried about Hage getting traded back to the Ticats and suddenly unretiring, we’d at least get a conditional pick from the Stamps.

It’s interesting to note that Gott was in Ottawa during the draft, which may mean that this deal was done days ago.

While R-Nation was settling in to wait for the second round Desjardins got rid of a major headache and traded back into the 1st round by dealing QB Kevin Glenn to BC for the Lions’ #5 overall pick.

That pick and the 10th overall selection were promptly flipped to the Montréal Alouettes for the 4th (and 13th) pick, which was used to select DB Antoine Pruneau. Pruneau was the top ranked DB in the draft and thought by some to be the best all-around football player available. He immediately improves Ottawa’s secondary as he’s an effective player who can play safety or corner.

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Managing to trade back into the 1st round at the cost of a disgruntled backup QB can’t be seen as anything other than a coup by Desjardins. I can’t wait to hear R-Nation give Glenn the welcome he deserves when the Lions visit TD Place.

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See ya soon Glenn! At least we’ll always have the expansion draft!

Best of the rest:

– With the 13th pick, the Redblacks selected WR Scott MacDonell, a 6 foot 5 inch 230 pound playmaker. He figures to be a depth player at this point but could blossom into a serious threat.

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– At 23rd overall the Redblacks took DL Nigel Romick. At 6’5″, weighing 242 pounds and running a 4.72 in the 40 yard dash he figures to be a key special teamer.

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– The 28th player picked in the draft was 6’5″, 295 pounder OL Aaron Wheaton 

– Redblacks finally drafted a Laval OL at 37, only he was named Hugo Desmarais (6’6″, 305 pounds) and not Lavertu. 

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– DL Stephon Miller from Windsor came off the board at 46

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– Laval DL Vincent Desloges, McGill LB Alexandre Bernard and McMaster LS Kevin Malcolm were taken in the 7th round

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To sum up, the Redblacks made a real splash in their first-ever CFL Canadian Draft, with three trades in the first round, adding an all-star in Gott and a blue-chip prospect in Pruneau who can step in and play meaningful snaps right away. At the same time Desjardins was able to flip depreciating assets Hage and Glenn for a positive return. The Redblacks draft focused on the trenches as they needed to build Canadian depth. And while they can’t sit comfortably yet, they’ve put in place a solid foundation.

CLASS OF 2013

In addition to today’s trades and picks, it’s worth remembering that the Redblacks participated in the CFL’s 2013 draft, selecting four Canadian NCAA redshirt juniors (i.e. players still having a year of NCAA eligibility remaining) at the end of each of the first four rounds. With those picks the Redblacks selected Nolan MacMillan (OL), Connor “The Barbarian” Williams (DE), Kalonji Kashama (DE) and Tyler Digby (TE). These players are now all available to join the Redblacks for their inaugural training camp at the start of next month, though they may not all be there.

While Kashama, MacMillan and Williams all went undrafted during last week’s NFL Draft, it looks like Kashama has received an invite to Detroit Lions rookie mini-camp and the others may yet get camp invites of their own. Redblacks GM Desjardins has indicated that he is willing to be patient with his 2013 picks, saying:

“It’s the NFL dream, you can’t force your will on them. We anticipate if the process has run its course, they’ll probably be relatively eager to sign with us. We haven’t gotten into any serious dollar discussions with anybody. It’s not to that point yet.

The true wildcard of this group though is Vancouver Stealth’s lacrosse forward Tyler Digby. Since being drafted by the Redblacks, Digby was selected 20th overall in the National Lacrosse League draft and has enjoyed an impressive rookie season, scoring 22 goals and 58 points in 18 games. The Stealth are expecting Digby back next year and it’s not known if the Redblacks would be willing to let him be to a two-sport athlete. Things get even more complicated when you factor in that Digby’s natural position is TE, one rarely used by most CFL teams.

As training camp draws near, the Redblacks are better now than they were yesterday and if they can get one or two of their 2013 picks signed in time for camp it would be the cherry on top of a successful 2014 draft.

@RedblackGade

A closer look at the new Ottawa Redblacks jerseys

For an expansion franchise, the uniform unveiling is pretty much the last major milestone before the games begin. And the Ottawa Redblacks did their unveiling in style, in front of 1,200 season ticket holders at the Ottawa Conference And Event Centre on Tuesday night. We weren’t able to be there in person, but #RNation did a great job bringing us there. Thanks to everyone for the providing the photos below. Hope to eventually source them all properly.

Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at each uniform:

HOME UNIFORM

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ROAD UNIFORM

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That was fun!

My thoughts:

– Very cool that we have different home & away helmets. The traditional black looks great, but I love the white!

– Jersey number font is the same style as we saw at mini-camp, but with an outline. The outline looks fine, but I think I could have worked just as well without a stroke.

– Interesting choice to have red numbers with a white stroke on the home jersey, rather than the opposite. Makes for an overall darker look. Not a bad thing.

– Interesting choice of font for player names. Again, thought they would go with something simpler to balance off the buzz saw-style numbering. But it isn’t too much either. Not my first choice, but it works.

– Would have thought red socks and some red shoulder striping for the home uniform, but again, I don’t mind the ‘black out’ look either.

– The ‘Redblacks’ word mark on the front of the jersey looks a little bigger than what we normally see on a football jersey (though not Montreal big). Also, I would have liked to see one of the jerseys with the ‘Ottawa’ word mark.

– While I’m really not a fan of the ‘flashes’ under the arm on the Sens home & away jerseys, I like the black trim on the Redblacks whites. Especially that it extends to the shoulders. Works very well. Strong look.

– As expected, the entire saw blade Redblacks logo was used on the helmets, as opposed to the R on its own. It looks really good. Perhaps we’ll see the R on its own after a few years?

– Nice looking black striping down the side of the white pant. Completes the white jersey nicely.

– Do we think the black jersey with white pants will work well? Not sure, given the striping on the pants. TBD.

– Hard to see at first, but the Rouge et Noir word mark is actually used on the front ‘bumper’ of the helmet, as pointed out on SportsLogos.net. Here’s a closer look:

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Overall, a great first set of jerseys. Folks worried about plaid design can rest easy. While OSEG opted for a more modern style, they also kept things generally simple. A happy median.

For those who we’re hoping for a red jersey, don’t forget what owner Jeff Hunt had to say a few weeks ago. Don’t think we’ll be waiting too long.

An exciting day, filled with anticipation. As much fun as it was to speculate these last several months, the final product did not disappoint. A great looking uniform. Looking forward to picking up one of each jersey in the very near future.

One final thought: Props to the Redblacks for keeping the new uniform designs completely under wraps. Not a single leak, none of the rumours out there about plaid accents were even close to true and not a single jersey concept was really close to the final product. Nicely done!

@OTTRoughRiders

TD Place scoreboard will be a sight to see

By: Santino Filoso

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It’s often said that the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask. A while back I started wondering why we hadn’t heard anything yet about the new scoreboard for TD Place stadium at Lansdowne, so I tweeted at the Redblacks asking for some information. The Redblacks social media team has been lights-out so far and I wasn’t disappointed as my query was quickly answered.

Coming in at 60 feet by 40 feet means that R-Nation will have a glorious 2,400 square-foot screen overlooking the western end zone. Oh, and did I mention that it’s HD? Nothing like seeing the Redblacks run up the score in high-definition and watching the tears streak down opposing fans faces as they cower beneath the Redblack attack!

Comparing it to the old scoreboard that we had at Lansdowne during the Rough Rider/Renegade eras isn’t even fair. Kinda like:

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The big thing is the new scoreboard. The little blue thing is the old one.

For those of you who are more visual, our scoreboard will be exactly the same size as the one used by Georgia Tech at their stadium. Now I realize that in this picture their scoreboard doesn’t look incredibly imposing, but you have to remember that their stadium seats 55,000, more than double the capacity of TD Place.

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Having a quality scoreboard is something that really enhances the game-day experience. Nobody wants to be squinting to see a pixelated replay. Just ask Sens fans about the new scoreboard they got in 2011.

To sum up, TD Place’s scoreboard is going to be big, in HD and create even more excitement going into this inaugural Redblacks season. Yet another reason July 18th can’t get here soon enough!

@RedBlackGade

CFL Mascots 101: What they didn’t tell you in the media guide

By: Santino Filoso

Welcome to Defend the R’s first annual (and completely unbiased) CFL Mascot Power Rankings. We’ve got the inside scoop on all the things left off the mascot scouting report. If you thought you knew everything about these cuddly mascots, prepare to be surprised!

THE EAST:

4) Jason (Toronto)

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Jason brings up the rear in what can only be described as an extremely weak mascot division. This cartoony Argonaut suffers from multiple personality disorder. He carries a sword, wears a futuristic space helmet, only has three fingers and looks like he’s been trying to pinch a loaf since the start of the Trojan War. Jason needs to seek professional help. And if you’re an Argos fan, please encourage him to get it next time you see him fishing on Lake Ontario.

3) T.C. and Stripes (Hamilton)

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T.C. and Stripes, the love children of Tony the Tiger and Tigger, are the tamed pussy cats who can be found patrolling the Hamilton sidelines. T.C. , which cleverly stands for Tiger Cat (man, they got some thinkers in Steeltown), has been leading purrs of “Oskee Wee Wee” since the mid 80’s. Sadly, this feline’s best days are behind him and like John Henry giving way to the steam-powered hammer, it’s only a matter of time before Stripes (get it — tigers have stripes!) replaces him.

2) Touché and Blitz (Montreal)

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These identical unilingual twin birds representing the Als are a stretch at number two but by default they can’t rank any lower. Like junkies searching for their next hit (of worms), these birds have been known to draw flags for illegally entering the field. Lastly (and most worryingly), though they claim to be birds, Touché and Blitz have never been spotted airborne, leading many to question their true nature.

1) Big Joe Mufferaw/Grand Jos

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The gem of the East division’s mascots, this dashing lumberjack can do it all; whether it’s chopping down trees, exterminating rodents (he’s looking at you, Gainer), bird hunting, or causing French language controversies, Joe’s the man for the job. When he’s not being serenaded by R-Nation at TD Place, Joe can be found log running down the Rideau Canal or in Mattawa, where his winter home is.

THE WEST:

5) Gainer the Gopher (Saskatchewan)

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Though Alberta has successfully and meticulously prevented rats from entering the province, their watermelon hat-wearing neighbours to the east have fully embraced rodents – even selecting one to represent their fabled name-stealing team. Gainer, which is an anagram of Regina, struggles when trying to count to 12, and has two cousins named Leonard and Goof (seriously) who sometimes make watching the Green Riders lose a family affair.

4) Leo the Lion (BC)

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Leo is a lion who tragically can’t roar. When he’s not meowing to pump the crowd up, you can find the feline practicing ballet and avoiding Ralph.

3) Punter and Nanook (Edmonton)

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They say opposites attract, and boy oh boy is that ever true when it comes to the Eskimo Empire. You can’t expect a lot out of your offense when one of your mascots is a ‘roid raged football named Punter. The yin to Punter’s yang is Nanook, a polar bear who moved South to avoid the melting Arctic ice floes and because he heard so many good things about the sushi in the West Edmonton Mall.

2) Buzz and Boomer (Winnipeg)

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Ever since they flew the coop in Chicken Run, these poultry have been living large. The loveable duo never stop hatching plans to entertain the Winnipeg faithful because they know their team won’t.

1) Ralph the Dog (Calgary)

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You have to give respect where respect is due, and despite always looking like he just woke up, Ralph deserves all the praise he gets. As the CFL’s first and oldest mascot, Ralph has been eating Eskimo pies, chicken Alouette and gopher gumbo long before any of the other mascots showed up. Despite showing his age, this pooch is still top-dog in the West.

Where do you rank ’em? Let us know in the comments below!

 @RedBlackGade

Redblacks unveil jersey… numbers ;)

As if the excitement of their first official team activity wasn’t enough, the Ottawa Redblacks also gave fans a peek at what to expect from the team’s uniforms at their inaugural mini-camp this past week in Richmond, VA.

Here are a couple of photos that provide a good look (courtesy of the Ottawa Redblacks and the Ottawa Sun):

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For lots more photos, check out the Redblacks Facebook page.

As expected, the jersey numbers have the same saw blade slice style as the Redblacks ‘R’ logo.

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So, it’s not a traditional number style, but it definitely works on the practise jerseys. As long as there isn’t too much more going on with the jerseys, other than a little bit of shoulder striping, it should make for a great looking uniform. Hope they opt for a simple font for the player names as well.

As for the colour options, pretty standard stuff – black, white & red. Found this tweet particularly inciteful:

@OttRedandBlacks: @Redblacks dark practice jerseys are black so very likely the real jerseys are too. Every #CFL team follows suit with their practice jerseys.

Makes sense, although I still have a sneaking suspicion the team could go with a red home jersey, as opposed to black. At any rate, with a third jersey likely coming this fall, and with jersey combination mixing & matching becoming so commonplace in pro football, good chance we’ll see both black and red jerseys worn at home regularly.

With the jersey launch date rumoured to be May 10th, we’re now just under a month away from the big reveal. While we wait, whose name/number are you thinking about for your first Redblacks jersey? We put together a quick poll:

Mini-Camp Coverage

Couldn’t end this mini-camp post without a shoutout to the Redblacks social media team and The Ottawa Sun’s Tim Baines for the excellent coverage from Richmond. Both provided piles of great photos, videos, interviews and incite. Was fun to follow the action, giving fans a sense of the atmosphere and some of the personalities we have to look forward to this season.

Kudos to the Ottawa Sun for sending Baines to Richmond. Shame the Ottawa Citizen didn’t send Gord Holder or anyone else. The Sun’s domination on Redblacks coverage in the city continues.

Things we learned at Redblacks mini-camp

By: Santino Filoso

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The Redblacks took an important step in their development this week as the team came together for mini-camp in Richmond, VA. The historic gathering gave coaches and management their first look at their players on the field (albeit without any equipment, due to league rules) and allowed the team to begin developing some chemistry. Here are a few takeaways from the three-day camp:

Marcel Desjardins is the anti-Burris, in that he seemingly never cracks a smile. After all the tough legwork he’s done to get the franchise to this point, the guy has to be giddy inside to finally see his players on an actual field, doing football things. Not that you’d ever be able to tell from his body language though. I think Desjardins will only smile when the Redblacks win back-to-back Grey Cups, and even then only if they’re blowouts.

Henry Burris could make a hell of a weatherman. Smooth clear voice, check. Million dollar smile, check. Ability to concentrate in averse conditions (Fred Rouse), check. Strokes his audience’s ego with subtle comments, check. Interesting random prop (banana peels), check.

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– You heard it here first: there’s no chance Kevin Glenn shows up to training camp. This was the Redblacks first organized event in team history. You can’t overstate how important it was for all the guys to get together and to start building some chemistry. This would’ve been the perfect opportunity for Glenn to silence his critics and play the good solider until another team’s pivot went down, paving the way for him to be traded. By failing to show up at this mini-camp, he’s alienated himself from the guys on the roster and missed out on a crucial bonding experience. One thing’s for certain: with Burris, Thomas DeMarco, Matt Faulkner and the newly signed Corey Leonard, the Redblacks have a bevy of strong arms. The only person Glenn’s hurting right now is himself.

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Keith Shologan is happy to be out of Regina, even if it’s only for a few days. Who can blame him, considering the seasons in Regina are Winter (October to mid-May) and Spring/Summer (July to early September).

Shologan interview

– The numbers on the Redblacks jerseys are going to be unique in the CFL, as they’ll feature a small notch, just like the R on the buzz saw in the logo. Personally I love this touch and can’t wait to see what the finished product will look like when the uniforms are finally and officially revealed on May 10th.

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According to the Ottawa Citizen, Eric Fraser is the Redblacks CFLPA rep. Between mini-camp drills he took some time to meet with the Redblacks veterans and updated them on the latest CBA situation. From his tweets you can see that Fraser is a very intelligent and reasonable guy, and hopefully this translates in a positive manner during the CBA negotiations. Also he got sore feet:

– R-Nation cannot be contained and we are already everywhere. We’re going to have strong showings at every stadium this season so that our boys know they’ll never be alone in enemy territory. Zack and Erika Wood got an early start on the road tripping by heading down to Richmond to watch the Redblacks practice.

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– Remember the name Jordan Roberts (RB). He was an absolute monster in college putting up 50 TDs in just three seasons at the University of Charleston and sounds like he really had a strong camp. I think he’ll be an impact player and quickly turn into a fan favourite.

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– The mistakes the doomed the Renegades will not be repeated by the Redblacks. The team had a ton of French content in their camp coverage, with tweets in both English and French, interviews with players like WR Simon Le Marquand and FB Patrick Lavoie and used both languages in their daily video updates. Smart move by management to keep everyone happy.

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– The Redblacks team Desjardins has put together looks very fast. Bodies have been flying around and everyone from reporters to coaches to the players themselves have been commenting on it. That being said, take it with a grain of salt as it’s easy to look fast without helmets and pads and when you’re not being fully jammed at the line.

– Lastly, there’s something different about this team, it isn’t your normal expansion group. The feeling of optimism surrounding the players and the quality of their resumes gives the Redblacks more than a fighting chance out of the gate and you could even make the argument that they’re already better than some teams (hint: Winnipeg). GM Desjardins hammered this message home at the team’s first meeting when he told the players that “from this point forward, we are the Ottawa Redblacks, not the expansion Ottawa Redblacks”. That’s exactly the mentality the team needs to adopt to be successful and it’s good to see it expressed from management.

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“From this point forward, we are the Ottawa Redblacks, not the expansion Ottawa Redblacks”.

With our first look at the team in the books, what position do you think is the Redblacks strongest?

@RedBlackGade

Strong Redblacks ticket sales a great sign

By: Santino Filoso

If you plan on watching history first hand and you don’t already have your tickets to see the Redblacks live at Lansdowne (TD Place at Lansdowne Park, that is), better stop dragging your feet. With the Sens limping to the finish of a pretty dismal NHL season, Ottawa’s sports fans are quickly turning their attention to the CFL and making the Redblacks the hottest ticket in town.

Don’t take my word for it, though. In a recent TSN 1200 interview , Redblacks owner Jeff Hunt said that the team was pushing the 13,000-mark for season ticket sales, with nearly four months to go before the home opener. And that was before the launch of the home opener ticket pack last weekend (which will count toward the total as ‘season ticket equivalents’). With a previously-stated goal of 15,000 season tickets sold, Hunt and the Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group have to be really pleased with the results to date. Ottawa CFL fans have responded and are ready to embrace their team.

According to the Redblacks website, eight sections on the South Side (“North Side Sucks!”) are completely sold out – R, RR, S, SS, T, TT, QQ & UU. Three other sections (P, Q & U) are also currently half-filled.

On the North Side (“South Side Sucks!”), section E is sold out and the lower three-quarters of EE, F, D and DD are occupied. Additionally, club seats 105-107 have been sold.

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Want a little more detail? Fine. Here you go:

North Side

Section D Rows 1-19 Sold Out
Section D Rows 20-31 Singles Only
Section DD Rows 1-19 Sold Out
Only seats left in DD are the top five rows

Section E Rows 1-31 Sold out
Section EE Rows 1-8 Sold out
Section EE Rows 9-19 Singles only
Only seats in EE are in the top five rows

Section F Rows 1-19 Sold Out
Section F Rows 20-31 Singles Only
Section FF Rows 1-19 Sold Out
Only seats left in FF are the top five rows

[Only available pairs of seats on the north side are outside the 25s, top five rows and the field level seats]

South Side – Lower Deck

Section P Top 7 rows sold out
Section Q Top 11 rows sold out
Section R Sold out
Section S Sold Out
Section T Sold out
Section U Top 11 rows sold out

South Side – Club Seats

Middle 3 sections sold out.
[Available club seats are outside the 35’s]

South Side – Upper Deck

QQ, RR, SS, TT, UU sold out
Front 2 rows of PP, VV and MM sold out
[All available upper deck seats are outside the 20’s]

*Compiled via Renegade Nation

HOME-OPENER TICKET PACK

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Starting from $69.00 (or $23/game) + taxes/fees, Redblacks fans have the opportunity to get a ticket to the home opener plus any two other home games. The packages went on sale March 22nd at 10:00am, with fans buying online, by phone and in person. Before close of business on the 22nd, the team announced that the $168.00 ticket packs had sold out. The most expensive packages remaining are $123.00 (or $41/game) + taxes/fees.

Let’s take a look at the package, which I purchased myself on the 22nd:

THE GOOD

– For the cost of a single Sens ticket, a beer and parking, fans get to not only be a part of a historic opening Friday night, but also get to go to any two other home games.

– It ensures more butts in the stands even if the team’s inaugural season gets ugly.

– Keeps tickets in the hands of R-Nation. Few opposing team fans will be willing to pay for a package to three games, especially if they’re from out of town. This will really help preserve home field advantage and give the team a boost in critical moments. We’ve all felt how frustrating it can be when Leafs/Habs fans invade the CTC, but thankfully this is a problem the Redblacks will be able to avoid in year one.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD

– I found it silly and a bit annoying that it was not possible to actually pick the section and seats you wanted. Instead, people were forced to pick a ticket range and then randomly assigned their seats. While this might be okay for some people, others (such as myself) wanted to sit on a specific side – South Side (“North Side Sucks!”). When I was buying my tickets, I had to refresh the page a few times in order to be randomly assigned my seats on the South Side instead of the North.

– Another issue I ran into was that there was that there was a limit of six packages per person. This presented a problem because I had put together a group of eight family members and close friends. I ended up having to buy six and then another two separately and as such my group was scattered all over the stadium. Thankfully, shortly after I purchased my tickets I was able to get a hold of a Redblacks ticket rep and they quickly moved everyone together. In the end, I was very impressed with how quickly they responded and that they were able to accommodate my group’s needs. The Redblacks earned a lot of respect and goodwill from the people in my group.

With nearly 13,000 season tickets sold, in addition to the home opener packages that just went on sale, TD Place at Lansdowne Park promises to be filled with rowdy fans ready to unleash eight years of pent up energy. Considering kick off is still a few months away, R-Nation is doing a hell of a job shutting up the naysayers who predicted football in Ottawa wouldn’t work. If you don’t want to be on the outside looking in, you’d better get yours soon.

Where will you be sitting this season? At home or in the stands with the rest of R-Nation? Get over to the Redblacks website, take the virtual 3D tour and buy your tickets now!

@RedBlackGade