The 2021 season will be shorter and more restrictive than any CFL season Craig Dickenson has coached in. And he can’t wait.
The Riders will begin training camp July 10. That will be Dickenson’s first time coaching players face to face since the end of the 2019 season–the longest spell of his career.
“I had one season I missed back in 1999 where I took a job as the Dean of Students at a high school,” says Dickenson. “And the following year I took a job at Utah State. So I think this is the longest.”
Dickenson says he and his staff have been watching games, the NFL and NCAA football and studying film during the pandemic. But nothing can replace coaching at game speed.
“For me personally it’s going to be the challenge of the situations that come up (in game). I want to stay sharp and do a good job as a game manager. And the reality is you get better at that by doing it.”
After quarantining at home for seven days, Riders players will have another seven-day quarantine in Regina. That will be the same for players whether they are vaccinated or not. Leagues like the NFL have different guidelines for players who have their COVID shots, but Dickenson says the CFL is not there yet.
“Right now we’re all playing by the same set of rules regardless. So what that means is it’s going to be pretty restrictive, the freedoms are going to be limited because we have to essentially assume everybody’s unvaccinated, even though a lot of us are fully vaccinated. But I believe that could change,” he says.
“I think as the season goes along you’ll see more and more players and coaches getting vaccinated and realizing there’s a lot of advantages to doing that.”
With the long layoff Dickenson fully expects to see that some players haven’t kept up their conditioning. And he thinks we’re going to see some surprise cuts across the league.
“I do believe we’ll have some guys show up that didn’t do what they needed to do in the off-season,” he says.
“What’s going to happen is a good, young player is going to beat them out. And that’s just the way it is. Training camp is very competitive–this year it’s going to be more competitive than ever.
“This is going to be one of those year where if you come in out of shape, you come in not tuned in to your playbook and not ready to go, you’re not going to last.”
Training camp is to begin July 10 in Regina.