New era for Tiger-Cats

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

There's an air of optimism wafting through Steeltown, a region known for its lunch-pail mentality and hard-nosed attitude.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are bent on embracing the city's spirit.

In turn, the Ticats are hopeful of turning around a pigskin program that has underachieved in recent years.

"Winning is a feeling and we want to capture that and sustain it," kicker Nick Setta, who emerged as one of the lone bright spots last season, said as the CFL's 2008 regular season kicks off.

"Everyone should remember how last year felt, but you can't dwell on it. Everything about this year is so new and I'm very optimistic."

From a new general manager, new co-ordinators to the new faces on the field, Setta felt a sense of freshness from the moment training camp began.

Now comes the hard part of winning games and changing the team's losing culture and mindset.

"Last year, we didn't know who was whom in the locker room," Setta said. "We have now a solid group of veterans the young guys can look to for support.

"And I'd like to consider myself as one of those leaders. I have no problem letting people know where they stand. If someone isn't pulling their weight, I'll let them know.

"There's just a different mentality with our team."

With so much that went wrong last year, new general manager Bob O'Billovich tried to address many of the team's shortcomings.

On defence, the Ticats hope to apply more pressure on opposing quarterbacks by fielding quicker, more athletic and bigger linemen.

As a unit, the Ticats want to be aggressive and more disciplined, another area that was subpar last season.

"There's a real good buzz," receiver Tony Miles said. "We really want to win and do what it takes to win.

"I truly believe we're on the verge of doing something special."

Miles is one of the new faces who will line up on offence. He rejoined the Ticats, the team that drafted him in 2002, in the off-season after spending five years with the Argos.

Miles won a Grey Cup in 2004 in Toronto after seeing the Argos undergo a major facelift and an identity change.

"There's nowhere to go but up with this franchise," Miles said. "I think we have all the pieces in place.

"It's just a matter of everyone getting on the same page."

The team's Canadian base is as good as any in the CFL, highlighted by running back Jesse Lumsden, who was brought along slowly in the pre-season after suffering a shoulder injury last year.

"We'll be explosive on all fronts," Miles predicted. "Our opponents won't know how we're going to come at them, but we'll be coming at them.

"That, I can promise you."

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ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES

Last season: 3-15, last in East, missed playoffs

Key departures: LB JoJuan Armour; DB Dwight Anderson; DB Tay Cody; OL Ryan Donnelly; WR Talman Gardner; FB Julien Radlein; WR Brock Ralph; FS Richard Karikari; offensive co-ordinator Mike Working; defensive co-ordinator Ed O'Neil.

Key additions: GM Bob O'Billovich; offensive co-ordinator Marcel Bellefeuille; defensive co-ordinator Denny Creehan; WR Tony Miles; WR Pat Woodcock; LB Michael Botterill, DB Chris Thompson; DB Dylan Barker.


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