Canada has better grasp of game

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Tom Canada has been listening to the veterans about making his body last....

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Tom Canada has been listening to the veterans about making his body last. (Winnipeg Sun/Marcel Cretain)

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

Tom Canada leaves Manitoba for Saskatchewan today to start his second football tour of, er, Canada.

Having a full CFL season under his belt has made a world of difference to the American.

"I have a better understanding of what the game's all about and a better understanding of what 20 games takes out of ya," the defensive end said before leaving for Regina, where the Winnipeg Blue Bombers open their season versus the Roughriders tomorrow night. "I'm just excited. I'm feeling good about the defence, I'm feeling good about the scheme and I'm having fun this year.

"Last year, we had a lot of internal stuff going on at this time. We weren't sure if I'd be here much less than who would be next to me the next day. So, it's nice to be a little more settled down and having some fun."

Last year, of course, Dave Ritchie started the season as a lame-duck head coach and, but for veteran defensive lineman Doug Brown, there were question marks all along the D-line. Canada earned a starting spot early in camp and Elfrid Payton answered an SOS at the other end position three games into the season. Melvin Bradley was finally inserted alongside Brown and later replaced by Joe Fleming. Tomorrow, rookie Gavin Walls and veteran Antwone Young will rotate at the other defensive end spot.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Canada, 25, recorded seven quarterback sacks in the first half of last season -- good enough to be named the club's nominee as rookie of the year. That was even after he hit a wall and did not record a single sack in the second half.

"Yeah, the most games we played in college is 14 and that's if you made it to the national championship, which we never did," said the 6-foot-3, 255-pound California-Berkeley product. "I never played more than 10 games in a season. Last year was like two seasons for me.

"So, I started (training) a little later in the off-season and didn't go crazy. I worked more on stuff that's going to help me with longevity rather than just an explosive 10-game season. I've been taking a lot of advice from the old guys, like Milt (Stegall), (Ryland) Wickman and Dougie (Brown) about how to take care of your body. I used to think the ice tub was for wusses, now I'm in there every day. You've got to maintain yourself mentally and physically."

Canada, by the way, did not spend his off-season bragging that he was playing pro football in a country named after him.

"I tried to keep that out of conversations, to be honest with ya," he said. "But when it came up, everyone said, 'That's weird.' I had a lot of fun last year and I'm hoping for better things this year."

And it will start against the 'Riders tomorrow.

"I kind of like playing Saskatchewan," Canada said. "We had good success out there last year. I like their turf field and it's always exciting to get out there against some other guys. It's going to be nice to play against a new team and get after some quality quarterbacks and some quality offensive linemen."


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