TSN's The Extra Yard documentary series kicked off Sunday with the first episode, looking at training camp and the pre-season games. From this perspective, it was a great look behind the scenes at what goes on during the CFL's training camps. It got plenty of positive reactions on Twitter, too; you can see some of those in the picture at right below (a screenshot of this Storify page, which you can check out if you'd prefer an interactive version). My choices for the top five moments from the first episode are below the jump.
1. "Care about something bigger than yourself, Miguel!":One of the most interesting personalities in the initial episode was Argonauts' defensive tackle Miguel Robede, especially as he was cut midway through training camp. Robede, who played on the NCAA's legendary 2001 national champion Miami Hurricanes' squad and then later suited up with the famed Laval Rouge et Or in CIS play, was the first-overall pick in the 2005 CFL draft (by Calgary). Despite tremendous talent, though, his CFL career to this point had been rather inconsistent, and he was traded to Toronto this offseason with receiver P.K. Sam for receiver Reggie McNeal and defensive lineman Adrian Davis. (Interestingly, Davis is the only one of those players to actually make his respective team this year).
Robede's skill that saw him being tagged as a potential replacement for Adriano Belli was on display during The Extra Yard, but so was his mercurial nature. One example of the latter was the fight he got in with another player during practice, which head coach Jim Barker (seen above during a June game last year) broke up with the titular exclamation. Clearly, Robede didn't learn enough from it to hang around.
2. "There are no bad dogs, there are only bad masters": This comment, from defensive line coach George Dyer after Dyer explained a particular concept to Robede, was quite an interesting one. Given the often egocentric nature of coaching, especially in high-profile jobs in the NCAA and NFL, I doubt you'd hear too many coaches saying things along those lines. The general perception is that coaches' influences are good, and that failure to improve is only on the shoulders of the players. In reality, it's more complex then that, and players and coaches both have their challenges. Dyer's comment was a refreshing example of that, particularly on the systems-installation front; a player not being able to grasp a certain concept is sometimes a reflection of a failure on the coaching side, not just on the player's side.
3. "Coach, I want to be a part of this." This line wasn't actually delivered on-camera, but came from Barker quoting comments defensive tackle Nate Robinson had made to him earlier. Here's the fuller context of Barker's speech, which was made to the team:
"This morning he got a call that his brother Carl's car was hijacked and he was shot to death. And you know what Nate Robinson did? He said, "Coach, I want to be a part of this. This is special."
That's a pretty incredible story. Unfortunately, things didn't work out for Robinson in Toronto; he got hurt and then he got cut during June. He showed enough talent that it wouldn't be surprising to see him show up somewhere in the CFL down the road, though.
4. Nate Robinson's toasted cookies: Robinson was also involved in one of the other top moments of the show, describing in detail the benefits of toasting cookies. CFL manager of digital media Jaime Stein described this as his highlight of the show, and it's definitely up there.
5. "You bring your cell phone in here as a rookie, you will be on the next f###ing plane out of town": One of the funniest moments of the documentary came when a rookie's cell phone went off loudly during a meeting and rang three or four times before he managed to shut it off. This was right in the middle of a serious Barker speech, prompting him to deliver the above line. It also illustrated in general how regimented camps can be. No word on whose phone that was, but I'd bet they learned their lesson. (Update: turns out the phone actually belonged to a member of the film crew!)
The next episode of The Extra Yard will air Thursday, August 4. This first episode will be rebroadcast on TSN Monday, July 4 at 7:30 Eastern. For extra features, clips and more, check out TSN's hub for the show.