‘Guys came here to play football’: QB Collaros says hitting bombers are doing everything they can to be ready for training camp to begin

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Reigning CFL Most Outstanding Player Zach Collaros did his best to summarize what it’s like to train with his teammates without a coach while he goes on strike amid negotiations for a new collective agreement.

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“We’re doing something … but it is what it is,” the Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback said Wednesday.

This “something” is a series of informal workouts that have been going on since the CFL players walked off the job Sunday morning.

The Bombers players, who are still being housed and cared for by the Bombers organization during the strike, have gathered each day to host walkthrough-style drills, learn the playbook, and build some chemistry with newcomers on the pitch . Experienced players act as coaches or “leaders,” and they conduct drills, play offensive plays, and do whatever it takes to be ready for the official start of training camp whenever that may be.

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“The boys came here to play football,” Collaros said in an interview with CJOB’s Derek Taylor, told The Sun. “We’re still in the dorms at the moment and getting our meals, so we won’t just be lying in the dorms. I don’t think it’s too much to ask guys to do, and I don’t think anyone thinks so.

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“It goes back to the culture and the foundation that was laid here. Guys know what it takes to win. Eventually there will be a deal and we want to be able to hit the ground running when we get out there.”

It sounded like there was hope for a new CBA on Wednesday and it’s possible things will return to normal soon, but nothing has been confirmed yet.

At least the Bombers players should be ready to catch up when training camp begins. The Edmonton Elks and Calgary Stampeders practiced all the time because they live in Alberta, where labor laws prohibit workers from striking until 72 hours after the strike vote.

They will join the strike on Thursday afternoon if it is still ongoing at that time.

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Players and coaches in the other seven cities are not at all happy that two teams have such an advantage, but there is only so much they can do.

“Technically we’re on strike, but we’re treating it like we’re still in camp,” said Greg Ellingson, the Bombers receiver. “You have other teams that are still getting work in the league, you have the Alberta teams that are actually training with their coaches.

“So we treat it like the trainers are out here, you know. We make sure we get into our playbooks. Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 (Wednesday) was Day 4 for us so we make sure to get through it like we’re still at camp. There are a lot of vets on this team and I think that’s what it takes to really pull through at a time like this. They make sure everyone is prepared for when we actually get back together and wrap up the CBA. Then we can actually come out at our best and be prepared.”

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Ellingson said the industrial action actually helped him and other newcomers on the team get to know each other better.

The group forms a closed front, lives in dormitories, meets without a coach and eats together. Like a regular training camp, with a lot less formality.

“Typically at camp you’re so focused on the plays and you’re in briefing rooms and you can’t really chat and socialize,” Ellingson said. “It’s a way for us to have our meetings and sit down at the board and fool around and get to know each other. For now we’ve definitely done that and shared some of our stories and what it takes to make it to the CFL so the younger lads know what they need to do to impress.

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Former Bombers quarterback Chris Streveler was waived by the NFL’s Miami Dolphins on Wednesday.

A hero of the Bombers’ 2019 Gray Cup run, Streveler has been bouncing around in the NFL for more than two seasons. He was with the Arizona Cardinals – who started a game in 2020 – with the Baltimore Ravens and most recently with the Dolphins.

He might want to join another NFL team for a training camp, but could eventually look north again, where he’s been one of the more exciting players in the CFL, even in a backup role.

The Bombers currently have Collaros, veteran Dakota Prukop, sophomore Dru Brown and college recruit Jake Floreia on the roster.

Streveler is a CFL free agent and could be attractive to multiple teams.

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Nine years into his CFL career, Collaros can probably be counted among those veteran players who don’t exactly love training camps.

It can be a real grind, but it’s obviously an important time for a quarterback to make connections with the players around them and begin implementing a system that coaches believe will result in winning football games.

Call it a necessary evil, if you will.

“It feels good to be back with the boys,” Collaros told CJOB.

“It’s good to throw the football a bit to real, professional receivers. It was great to be back with old faces and to meet some new faces as well.

“It’s kind of normal that we’re able to put together some scripts using bits and pieces of what we find from installation packages from years past. We’re working through things like that, trying to bring the new guys up to speed and trying to get back on track for the vets.

“We teach old stuff to new people, as well as our old stuff, and try to find the different nuances to make the piece even better.

“We don’t really have a head coach. We have a group.”

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