Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach George Cortez is sure of his team’s philosophy: Expect Hamilton to produce nothing else but constant, aggressive energy.
“We’re trying to have our players understand that it is all about playing fast, and playing hard, and playing confidently,” Cortez said Monday on a conference call. “I was encouraged with the way we practised, and the way we went about it [at April’s mini-camp].”
The coach nonetheless stressed, like every other team, Hamilton has much meticulous work to do heading into Wednesday’s three-day rookie camp, and Sunday’s start to training camp. But in his first season as a head coach, Cortez sounds assured.
“I was excited, during the mini-camp, about how our players reacted to being coached, and how their attention to detail was,” he said. “And I think it will only be better as we get into real football practice.”
Cortez has reason to feel confident; on paper, Hamilton appears a contender for the 100th Grey Cup this November inside Toronto’s Rogers Centre. But Cortez refuses to compare the competition.
“I’m not going to coach other people’s teams,” he said.
What will make Hamilton’s growth throughout June so interesting is how the team’s many off-season acquisitions coalesce. Most will watch to see if 36-year-old quarterback Henry Burris still has mobility and accuracy. But Cortez’s eyes will be jumping around.
Burris, slotback Andy Fantuz, running back Martell Mallett and wide receiver Sam Giguère, a 2008 first-round draft pick who will be playing his first CFL season, are “the high profile guys on offence,” Cortez said
“[And] we signed some guys on defence probably most people out there wouldn’t know about that I know our personnel department [is] very high on. But we will let [the players’] actions speak for them when they get here.”
Hamilton’s receiving corps will undoubtedly generate much attention. Alongside Fantuz and Giguère are 2011 rookie of the year Chris Williams, Aaron Kelly, Bakari Grant, and Canadian veteran Dave Stala. Appeasing them all might be a problem, but Cortez is unconcerned.
“In the past, [good offensive players at the same position] managed to coexist because they understood, with other good players in the same position, it forces a defence to take away more than one guy,” Cortez said.
A point of concern for Hamilton throughout training camp undoubtedly will be new bodies on the line of scrimmage. The recovery of centre Marwan Hage from knee surgery, and the departure of right guard Simeon Rottier has necessitated remodeling on the offensive line. And the departure of defensive end Justin Hickman to the NFL, and the release of defensive end Stevie Baggs means the defensive line needs new teeth.
“We will obviously be evaluating what is going on play-to-play, day-to-day, trying to put people in the right positions,” Cortez said.
The coach, however, will not force-feed anyone, especially the rookies. Although the three quarterbacks at rookie camp, including former Michigan starter Tate Forcier, will have to impress quickly to grab two spots in the full camp, overall Cortez expects everything to be done thoroughly and effectively, because only success in the regular season will prove Hamilton’s worth.
“I’m excited about playing games,” the coach said, “because you can only do so much on the practice field.”