CALGARY - Calgary Stampeders quarterback Drew Tate has adopted the training methods of a former mixed martial arts fighter to increase his durability for the upcoming CFL season.
Tate says he's has been kickboxing, swinging kettle bells and deadlifting weights in the off-season in Dallas with UFC 13 lightweight tournament champion Guy Mezger.
"I said I wanted to be bullet-proof this year," Tate said Thursday at McMahon Stadium in Calgary. "The guys in that sport are pretty close to it if not all the way. It's the direction I'm trying to go this off-season and hopefully it works out."
What was to be Tate's first full season as Calgary's starting quarterback in 2012 was marked by injuries, starting with a separated shoulder in Week 2. Tate required surgery and was sidelined him for all but the final two games of the regular season.
Tate then fractured a bone near the wrist of his throwing arm in the West Division semifinal win over Saskatchewan. Kevin Glenn started in Calgary's win over the B.C. Lions in the West Final and again in the Grey Cup loss to the Toronto Argonauts.
While Tate says he has no plans to become a fighter, he says he's already feeling stronger thanks to his new regimen and is throwing the football again. The 28-year-old from Baytown, Texas, wants to be able to absorb hits on the field this season, get up and throw the ball some more.
"I want to get my body physically as strong as possible, but also in vulnerable areas," Tate said. "When I'm not expecting to get hit, to have my body take that impact in and not blow anything out like a groin or a knee or something like that."
Glenn, 33, is still under contract with the Stampeders and has not asked for a trade, which will make for an interesting training camp come June.
The veteran may not be as nimble on his feet as Tate, but Glenn proved during the younger quarterback's absences last season he's capable of getting a CFL club victories in both the regular season and playoffs.
"I think what has transpired last year it's only fair to say it will be open competition with Drew Tate being the number one quarterback going into training camp," Stampeders head coach and general manager John Hufnagel said.
"I think everyone understands how I feel about Drew, the things that he can bring to an offence. That makes him the number one going into training camp."
CFL free agency opens Friday. Of those eligible, the Stampeders have already re-signed defensive back Eric Fraser, defensive tackle Corey Mace, punter Rob Maver, defensive lineman Justin Phillips and receiver Larry Taylor. Wide receiver Romby Bryant has gone to the Toronto Argonauts.
Tate let it slip that import offensive tackle Stanley Bryant had also been re-signed, but the Stampeders didn't confirm it Thursday. Hufangel said earlier he was "very close" in his negotiations with Bryant.
"We got most of our free agents signed, working on a couple more, and I'm very optimistic I'll get one of those two done before tomorrow," Hufnagel said.
Both offensive lineman Mark DeWit of Calgary and defensive end Brian Bulcke of Windsor, Ont., will enter free agency, although the Stamps still have interest in Bulcke, Hufnagel said.
"He's going to enter free agency and see what's out there for him and compare that to him what we have offered, so we'll have to play that out."
The Stampeders' GM says he'll be window-shopping during free agency, but doesn't feel he has any pressing needs on his roster.
"If I thought I had a glaring hole, then yes, I would pay a few more bucks to fill that hole," Hufnagel said. "I just don't see that at this time on our roster."