CALGARY - The Calgary Stampeders are less crowded at quarterback this season, but there is still heavy competition for the starter's job.
The Stampeders employed a three-man rotation in 2013 mainly because of an early-season injury to Drew Tate.
Kevin Glenn started the majority of games, but Bo Levi Mitchell was a busy third-stringer. He won his three starts and came off the bench to lead Calgary to another when Glenn was also injured.
Glenn was taken in the off-season expansion draft by the Ottawa Redblacks and subsequently dealt to the B.C. Lions, which leaves Tate and Mitchell vying to lead the offence of a team that posted a league-best 14-4 record last season.
"It brings out the best in us and I think that being said, we could be a starting point for the team," Tate said Sunday on the first day of training camp. "If the quarterbacks are battling, everyone else is battling kind of thing."
Tate, 29, was anointed Calgary's starter two years ago when Henry Burris was dealt to Hamilton. But injuries have limited the six-foot, 190-pound pivot to 153 completions over the past two seasons.
A throwing arm injury on July 6 last year and a subsequent setback sidelined him until October. Training camp reps will test the durability of the arm, Tate says.
"Feels good right now. Just trying to be smart with it," he said. "I feel it's all moderation with the volume we have. It's a lot of volume and it's really hard to mimic that in the off-season, the kind of volume we have, especially in camp.
"Ever since I was three feet tall, I've only had one speed and getting injuries, it make you have to change your approach. So far so good. It's only the a.m. of Day 1, so a lot of ball left."
Mitchell, 24, completed 69 per cent of his passes for 1,156 yards and 10 touchdowns last year. Six-foot-four and 204 pounds, Mitchell says there's no jealousy between he and Tate.
"We're friends through and through, no matter what," Mitchell says. "When he makes a great play, I'm not looking down saying 'I've got to make a better one.' I'm going out there, congratulating him and slapping him on the butt and saying 'good play.'
"If you look at last year, we went with three quarterbacks. I know there's not many teams in the league that are going to play one guy for 18 games every single snap, so you've got to be ready. We're going to do whatever we can to help each other prepare for the season."
The two Texans both signed contract extensions in the off-season and bring different qualities to the table, says head coach and general manager John Hufnagel.
"I guess the best way I could explain it is Drew is more of a jitterbug," Hufnagel explained. "He'll make plays out of nothing, just because of his mobility and elusiveness and great vision and accuracy.
"Bo is a little bit of a stronger-armed guy. He has the ability to move around and make plays, but he's more of a pocket guy and throw the ball down the field."
The Stampeders lost in the 2013 West Division final to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who went onto win the Grey Cup in Regina.
In addition to taking Glenn in the expansion draft, the Redblacks also selected Stampeder offensive lineman J'Micheal Deane and safety Eric Fraser. Ottawa also hired away defensive co-ordinator Rick Campbell to be their head coach.
Rich Stubler replaced Campbell after two seasons as B.C.'s defensive co-ordinator. Stampeder offensive co-ordinator Dave Dickenson signed a three-year contract extension in November.
Hufnagel swung a deal with Ottawa to obtain the first overall pick the Canadian college draft in May and used it to choose Laval offensive lineman Pierre Lavertu. The hope is he's a fast adapter to the CFL as centre Brett Jones was in winning the league's rookie award last season.
Among Calgary's significant contract extensions in the off-season were CFL sack leader Charleston Hughes, receivers Maurice Price, Jabari Arthur and Joe West, as well as middle linebacker Juwan Simpson and linebacker Keon Raymond.
To get some experience in his backfield, Hufnagel signed halfbacks Lin-J Shell and Josh Bell, who have experience working with Stubler in Vancouver, as well as former Hamilton Tiger-Cat Dee Webb.
"In the defensive backfield, it will be interesting because of the loss of players we've had in the off-season," Hufnagel said. "There's spots to be won."
Running back Jon Cornish, the CFL's leading rusher for two seasons and most outstanding player in 2013, adopted the practice of tai chi, a Chinese martial art, in the off-season.
"After doing six months of it, I understand that a lot of my movement patterns were not as efficient as they could be," said Cornish. "A lot of the things I could do on the field could be optimized. That's what I'm trying to focus on this year.
"Mentally I felt I could add some aspects to my game."
The Stampeders also have at camp running back Martell Mallett, the CFL's rookie of the year in 2009 when he played for the Lions.
Calgary's off-season was not without its drama. The team suspended defensive back Quincy Butler nine days before main camp. He was charged with two counts of assault following an incident outside a Calgary casino. He's due to appear in court June 26.
Concordia defensive tackle Quinn Smith, Calgary's seventh overall pick in the college draft, tested positive for a steroid which he says he inadvertently ingested via a supplement.
The Toronto native faces a two-year ban from Canadian university football. Smith is currently at Calgary's main camp and is subject to mandatory drug testing under the CFL's drug policy.
And Price chose the first day of training camp to apologize both in a press release and in a scrum with reporters for remarks he made on Twitter over a month ago that criticized gay NFL draft pick Michael Sam. The CFL fined Price for those comments.
"I just wanted to come here and be face to face with the guys and not do it from a distance," Price said.
"That's why I waited until this day to just apologize. I'm aware my comments were offensive and I just want to apologize to the Stamps fans, the CFL and especially Mr. Michael Sam himself."
The Stampeders are training on new turf at McMahon Stadium, which makes the pounding of two-a-days feel a little less painful.
"It's a lot better, 1,000 per cent better," Price said. "That's vacation for the joints, the ankles, the knees. I'm glad they got that done. That old turf was worn out and hard. When it was snowing it was icy and hard and just rough on the legs."