Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
CALGARY — Bo Levi Mitchell is confident in his throwing arm to start the CFL season.
The veteran Calgary Stampeders quarterback says he felt no pain during training camp in the shoulder that hampered him in 2021.
“It’s been a while since I’ve smiled in football,” Mitchell said ahead of Calgary’s season-opener Thursday against the Montreal Alouettes at McMahon Stadium.
“I feel amazing. I just want to continue to be a quarterback that can take this team to a Grey Cup.”
Off-season rehabilitation was so successful, the 32-year-old Texan said, that he abandoned an intention to rest his arm every fourth day of camp.
Mitchell instead told head coach Dave Dickenson he wanted push through.
“Instead of trying to taper it and protect it, I was like, ‘let me build it up,’” Mitchell said. “I want to build up the strength, to build the endurance. I’ve felt great.”
The CFL’s Most Outstanding Player twice (2016, 2018) and two-time Grey Cup winner needs just under 1,700 yards in his 10th season as a Stampeder to become Calgary’s all-time leader in passing yards. Henry Burris holds the record at 32,191.
Mitchell’s 2021 season got off to a painful start when he sustained a broken leg in Calgary’s second game of the season. He missed three games.
Upon his return, Mitchell couldn’t throw the football without pain in the shoulder he’d had surgery on in January, 2020.
Mitchell threw more interceptions (13) than touchdown passes (10) in a season for the first time in his career. He compiled 2,594 yards in 11 games.
The Stampeders recovered from a 1-4 start to win seven of nine and make the playoffs in a COVID-19 shortened season.
Uncertain over what his football future would be at the time, Mitchell agreed in January to restructure the final year of a four-year contract he’d signed in 2019 for a reported $2.8 million.
That freed up money to sign quarterback Jake Maier, who posted three 300-yard passing games during Mitchell’s recovery from his broken leg.
“I didn’t want to leave the team in the same position I did last year putting all their eggs in my basket and then me not being able to perform the way I need to,” Mitchell said.
“I restructured because, first of all, I was making a lot and where I’d been the previous season … I’m not a big guy on ‘oh, I did this in the past, so you just still pay me this much kind of thing’.
“I wanted our team to be successful. I didn’t want Jake to leave. We’re a more successful team with two good quarterbacks. He’s a guy that I truly like, and think he’s going to be a hell of a player.
“I told him the truth. ‘I want you back here and I don’t know where my future is. I hope that I come back healthy.’ Luckily enough, I was able to so. If I’m able to do what I need to, hopefully I can re-sign at some point.”
Dickenson says Mitchell’s arm hasn’t given him cause for concern in training camp.
“If you watch, his delivery has gone back to what it used to be,” Dickenson said. “I just feel like I’ve got a great quarterback group and I know Bo is going to be a big part of that. You can’t win without good quarterback play.”
Three quarters of Dickenson’s roster was new in 2021. He’s pleased the 2022 edition flipped that ratio, with about three quarters of the Stampeders returning.
“We flipped that, but we’re still young, which is a good thing,” Dickenson said. “We’ve got enough experience now that I believe they should know what’s coming. There’s still some new faces, but not like last year. The expectations are always high, but I do believe that the more continuity you can keep together, you should do better as a football team.
“I’m going to say that right now, the last three minutes of the game is going to determine winner or loser. We need to win those last three minutes.”
The majority of starters from an overtime division semifinal loss to Saskatchewan returned, including running back Ka’Deem Carey, who ranked second in the CFL in rushing yards.
“The CFL is so much about staying healthy with such small numbers, but I think the sky’s the limit for this team,” Mitchell said.
“We have some talented guys who are tops in the league as far as position. When you look at certain positions offensively defensively, I don’t think there’s a lot of holes in this team.”
JUST THE FACTS
HEAD COACH: Dave Dickenson (seventh season)
2021: Finished third in West Division (8-6-0). Lost division semifinal 33-30 in overtime to Saskatchewan Roughriders.
ADDITIONS: LB Cameron Judge, OL Derek Dennis, QB Tommy Stevens.
DEPARTURES: LB Darnell Sankey (Saskatchewan Roughriders); LB Royce Metchie (Toronto Argonauts); DB Jamar Wall.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Mitchell, Carey, WR Reggie Begelton; CB Jonathan Moxey.