At the end of April, the Ti-Cats hosted a three-day mini-camp for veteran players. The camps was attended by 53 players, making it the most well-attended session of any of the eight CFL teams.
These Off-season Voluntary Workouts (OVW) were agreed to in last year's collective bargaining agreement by the league and the players. I don't know which side pushed for these, but whoever was responsible did the league a great service.
One of the things many commentators say about the CFL is that the first couple of weeks of the regular season are more like an extended preseason. Training camp opens at the beginning of June, and the season starts at the beginning of July, with two preseason games sandwiched in between. That does not leave a lot of time for teams to evaluate players. So the first two or three weeks are often seen as an extension of the preseason, with the exception that the outcomes matter.
Hamilton last year got out of the gate rather slowly, posting a 1-4 record during the first month of the season. Those early-season struggles led to the team's unimpressive 9-9 mark.
So what does this have to do with OVWs in 2011?
The three days that the players got to spend with one another were used to learn the playbook and build familiarity. This could lead to a sharper start to the season. If the Cats are able to avoid the pratfalls that defined the early part of 2010 and get off to a faster start, it could lead to continued success over the course of the season. These mini-camps could help the Cats be a step ahead of the competition come June, which could lead to an advantage in July, which could roll into August and beyond.
If the Tiger-Cats get off to a better start in 2011 than they did in 2010, we might have to thank the implementation of Off-season Voluntary Workouts.