Bo Levi Mitchell says he would’ve been ready for the start of the CFL season if it opened on time.
The Calgary Stampeders’ star quarterback underwent shoulder surgery in December. He said Tuesday during a videoconference that in his mind he would’ve been Calgary’s starter if it opened the campaign on time last Friday night against the visiting Montreal Alouettes.
The earliest the CFL season will start is September, but there’s also the possibility the ‘20 campaign will be cancelled outright because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mitchell, a two-time Grey Cup MVP and league MVP, said his original goal was to be ready for the start of training camp, but that plan was pushed back a month once it became apparent the season wouldn’t be starting on time.
“We were probably pushing it a little bit getting the surgery in December and then trying to be ready basically for training camp,” Mitchell said. “I think that would’ve been pushing it at the time but I’d say as fast as I’ve progressed right now, I think I could’ve started a month ago and I’d be even further along than I am right now.
“I feel great. Obviously I’m a little bit of an over-confident guy, I feel like I would’ve been ready but it’s all guesswork to be honest with you.”
Though the pandemic has given Mitchell plenty of extra time to recover, he wishes that wasn’t the case.
“It’s really hard to be that selfish and talk about it, with what’s been going and everything, in a positive manner,” he said. “I guess for career and arm’s sake it’s been a little bit of a help, for sure.”
The six-foot-two, 206-pound Mitchell is entering his ninth CFL season with Calgary. Prior to 2019, Mitchell had missed just one regular-season contest but spent seven games on the IR last year as backup Nick Arbuckle — now with Ottawa — won four of seven starts as the replacement.
Mitchell, 30, said he has new appreciation for players who’re sidelined with injuries.
“I definitely have a lot more respect for the guys who’ve spent some time there (injured list),” Mitchell said. ”I think the one thing that can get lost on you is the teammates that are going through things.
“It makes me think back to when guys did get injured and think how did I treat those guys? Did I ignore them? Did I listen to them or was I just focused on my own personal responsibilities? Going forward, that’s something I’ll definitely pay attention to now.”
Mitchell said former CFL quarterback Travis Lulay helped him through his recovery. Lulay, a Grey Cup champion and the league’s outstanding player in 2011, battled shoulder injuries during his tenure with the B.C. Lions.
“He said at the very beginning once you actually do pick up the football and start throwing, you’re going to have this eureka moment like, ‘Oh, I’m good, I’m good to go, I’m going to be able to throw. I’m fine,’” Mitchell said. “He’s like, ‘You’ve just got to avoid trying to rip the ball, trying to overdue it.
“Don’t test yourself, you have plenty of time. Just make sure you do everything the right way.’”
Like all CFL players, Mitchell is patiently awaiting word on whether there’ll be a 2020 season. Last week, a number of players took to social media to express their frustration with not having received any update from the CFL regarding an abbreviated campaign but Mitchell said he can see both sides.
“I probably sit on the fence a little bit,” he said. “I’m a little bit frustrated because, obviously, I want answers but I have the wherewithal to understand that maybe the guys upstairs don’t have the answers yet.
“As soon as you put a timeline on it, you’re doing exactly that, you’re putting a deadline on when you have to make a decision. In my personal opinion I want to have a season, I don’t want to sit at home and not play football … but I want to be safe, I want to make sure the protocols are in place. I know the CFL is trying to get that done. I want the CFLPA and CFL to work together instead of in contrast and get something done but do it in the right way, for the players and for the fans.”
Mitchell said he’d play games without fans in the stands if required, but adds it wouldn’t be ideal.
“We do this for fans, this is why we play and they’re the guys who drive us,” he said. “Honestly I use the fans a lot during the game, they’re a motivating factor whether or not we’re playing at home or we’re away.
“Sometimes when you throw the ball and are tackled, you kind of listen for the crowd to know whether or not you completed it or threw an interception.”
This off-season, Mitchell redid his contract with the Stampeders. He said he did so for two reasons.
“It was trying to give back to the team to free up some cap space for other guys that I wanted to keep around,” he said. “At the same time it was giving the Stamps a little of breathing room in order for me to go get a surgery and feel confident about myself for the next couple of years.
“It’s something I needed to get taken care of and needed to get on top of it before it became another year or two of just dealing with problems.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 16, 2020.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press