OTTAWA — Pouring rain doesn't make for an ideal practice setting, but the Ottawa Redblacks had no complaints Thursday.
With a bye ahead of next weekend's East Final, the Redblacks are making the most of their extra practice time and say dealing with inclement weather is just part of the preparation process.
"This was a good day today because it was raining," said head coach Rick Campbell, the East nominee for the CFL coach of the year award. "We were in pads and guys could have just gone through the motions, but there was a good energy and I think guys are looking forward to the game. It's still a ways away, but I was very impressed with the whole group."
The Redblacks will play the winner of Sunday's division semifinal between the Hamilton Tiger Cats and Toronto Argonauts.
"I feel the key for us right now is being mindful of what's going on around us and being more in our playbook and just studying and being prepared for any team that's coming," said receiver Ernest Jackson. "You just want to be ready when a play is called to be able to execute it without any issues."
The Redblacks swept both of their games against Hamilton this season but lost all three meetings to the Argonauts.
Ottawa quarterback Henry Burris, the East nominee for the most outstanding player award, believes those losses to Toronto were key to the Redblacks' success.
"I said those games would make us better in the end," he said. "I truly believe that. When you're a team that's fought so hard to get to the top and all of a sudden you're in a game that's for first place you don't know how to respond to that. You get lost in the emotions of the game.
"I think the (three) times we played Toronto we lost perspective on who we are as a team. You need to just be who you are … those (three) games taught us how to go out and respond in adverse situations."
The Redblacks had a few days off earlier in the week before returning to the field at TD Place, where they have kept practices fairly short. Players have enjoyed the week and been responsive to the workload.
"This is money time," said Campbell. "This is where you want to take advantage of these situations and our guys have done a very good job of going to work every week and doing their thing. That's what we need to do is focus on the East Final and hopefully more good things will happen."
A number of players have been through this scenario before and say it's important to use the extra time to their advantage.
"Complacency is the biggest thing and I don't see that on this team," added Burris. "I've played with other teams where we were already talking about we're going to the Cup and I don't hear anybody talking about that on this team. We're just looking forward to playing again.
"Whoever our next opponent is we can't wait to see who that is, but we're making sure to use these practices to stay sharp, to stay focused and to come out with some ideas for next week and everybody's into it."
Notes: Ottawa receiver Brad Sinopoli was the East nominee for top Canadian and teammate SirVincent Rogers was nominated in the outstanding offensive lineman category.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press