Hamilton Tiger-Cats' Nic Grigsby off to a good running start
Hamilton Tiger-Cats running back Nic Grigsby. (Al Charest/Postmedia Network)
The Tiger-Cats put up the Men At Work sign Monday, and nobody is more excited than Nic Grigsby.
The running back blew into Hamilton late last season after being released by Winnipeg.
All he did was put some pop back into the Cats’ hurtin’ ground game and help them reach the Grey Cup, running for 93 yards and scoring two touchdowns in the East Final.
“It’s great to be back to work, back to the grind, back to doing the thing I love to do,” said Grigsby Monday, as the Tiger-Cats opened their three-day mini-camp at McMaster University’s Ron Joyce Stadium.
“It’s amazing how much the coaches are putting on us, how much stuff they’re trusting us to have the ability to do in a short period of time ... without a whole lot of screaming.
“That’s a good thing because it shows they believe we can do things quickly ... play fast and learn on the fly.”
When regular training camp opens in late May, one of the more heated competitions will be at running back with C.J. Gable, Grigsby and Mossis Madu looking for playing time.
But Grigsby looks at it more as a partnership than a competition.
“It’s all love and competition. We all have to push each other. Everyone can bring something different to help us win,” said Grigsby.
“We’re teammates. I’ve got C.J.’s back and he’s got mine because with injuries you never know ... ”
Gable had a strong first season in 2013 with 782 rushing yards, 598 receiving yards and 12 TDs, finishing as runner-up for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie Award.
But he played only six games last season before foot and shoulder injuries put him on the sidelines.
Meantime, despite leading the CFL in TDs, Grigsby — who had beaten out Will Ford for the No. 1 job in Winnipeg — asked to be released last Oct. 15 when head coach Mike O’Shea benched him.
Reportedly, the team didn’t appreciate his late-night partying, even though it didn’t seem to affect his performance.
A week later, he was dancing through defences in Black and Gold.
“Winnipeg was great,” said Grigsby, despite the controversial ending, “because when I got there I hadn’t played in a year and a half and it felt a bit crazy because I was asking myself, ‘Do you still want to do this? But once I got back in the game it was like, ‘OK, now I know why I love doing this.’ Winnipeg gave me an opportunity.
“Then, Hamilton let me come here and keep playing the game ... I’m grateful because a lot of guys are out there wishing they still had a job.”
The Ticats have 51 players on the mini-camp roster. Included are 22 newcomers, many looking for reservations at the main camp.
He doesn’t have to worry about proving his worth in three days.
Like last season, when he eventually displaced Ford in Winnipeg as the starter, he now gets an opportunity to challenge Gable, when May rolls around.
Many veterans — including Gable — aren’t here for this three-day warmup to the season.
But, Grigsby believed it was important for him to participate.
“When I came in last year, I came in on the fly. This helps a lot because you get a rhythm going again and also, I want to become a better student of the game.”
And, he said, in the varied offence that head coach Kent Austin runs, there’s plenty to learn.
“Last year, coming in late, I relied a lot on my natural abilities. I want to come out here and learn the details of the playbook and get into all the nooks and crannies,” said Grigsby, as Hamilton aims for a third consecutive Grey Cup appearance.
“They’ve got a crazy (and, he’s using the word in the nicest possible meaning, as in crazy-good, crazy-complicated, crazy-fun) offence.
“With C.J. and Mossis we’re going to hit the ground running.”
Unlike last year, Zach Collaros comes in as the undisputed No. 1 QB, but two of last year’s backups, Dan LeFevour (Montreal) and Stephen McGee (unsigned) are gone. Jeremiah Masoli, who has started just two games, missed yesterday’s practice but is expected to arrive Tuesday. Jeff Mathews, a QB who played for Austin at Cornell also is in for an audition ... Mini-camp practices are open to the public and start at 10:10 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday ... With the group including Brian Bulcke, Ted Laurent, Linden Gaydosh and Bryan Hall, one of the more intriguing battles for playing time will be at defensive tackle ... Among notables not participating this week are receivers Andy Fantuz, Bakari Grant and Spencer Watt, offensive linemen Brian Simmons and Joel Figueroa, linebackers Simoni Lawrence, Rico Murray, Erik Harris and defensive ends Justin Hickman and Eric Norwood, and kicker Justin Medlock ... Defensive lineman Nick Brassell, who spent time on the Argos’ 2013 practice roster, has signed with the Cats.