Miller won't lose focus

REGINA -- Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Ken Miller is confident the football team will not be adversely affected by the spectre of Eric Tillman’s legal situation.

Tillman, the Roughriders’ general manager, was placed on paid administrative leave after news broke last week that he had been charged with sexual assault. In the interim, Miller has assumed many of the GM’s responsibilities.

“It’s important for those of us who are involved in football to keep the main thing the main thing,’’ Miller said at a media conference on Monday at Mosaic Stadium. “The main thing for us is to field a football team that is not just competitive, but is an excellent football team, so that’s what we’re going to do.

“Regardless of the distractions that we’re swirled around in here, our main focus is to get players on the field and then when we get them on the field, to coach them the very best that we possibly can and to win a Grey Cup.’’

Saskatchewan won the Grey Cup in 2007 to cap Tillman’s first full season as the CFL team’s general manager. As was the case in 2007, last year’s edition of the Roughriders posted a 12-6 regular-season record and staged a home playoff game.

Even so, the 2008 Roughriders dealt with unsettled situations due to a torrent of injuries to key players and a revolving door at quarterback.

“From a player perspective and from a coaches’ perspective, regardless of what distractions we had last year, we showed that we had a tremendous ability to put those things aside and stay focused on the things that needed to be focused on,’’ Miller said. “This may be a little higher-profile kind of a distraction, but certainly we’re going to approach it the same way.’’

Tillman remains a resource to the Roughriders but is not working out of the team’s office. In addition to talking with Tillman, Miller plans to consult with Joe Womack (director of player personnel), Tony Playter (co-ordinator, football operations), Cheryl McLean-Keil (executive assistant, football operations) and the assistant coaches while overseeing the football operations.

Roughriders president-CEO Jim Hopson said last week that Tillman will be on leave “in the immediate future.’’ Tillman’s first appearance in Regina Provincial Court is scheduled for Feb. 24.

This would ordinarily be a hectic negotiating period for Tillman, being that several players’ contracts are to expire Feb. 15.

Initially, Saskatchewan had 19 players who were eligible to test free-agency. As of Monday, the Roughriders had re-signed six of those players — offensive lineman Gene Makowsky, quarterback Darian Durant, linebacker Renauld Williams, defensive halfback Lance Frazier, offensive tackle Belton Johnson and centre Jeremy O’Day.

The highest-profile potential free agents are linebackers Maurice Lloyd, Sean Lucas and Anton McKenzie, plus guard Mike Abou-Mechrek. Miller does not expect Tillman’s situation to impede negotiations with those players and others.

“I’m not concerned with that because the people who I’ve talked with have been very positive,’’ Miller said. “When I’ve contacted players, they’ve been very positive. I’ve had players call me and say, ‘Coach, let’s get on with the negotiations.’ ’’

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TY for the LP updates.

So all is Rosy in Riderville, sounds like fluff to me...

Maybe ET's juicy forum posts have me spoiled, but man, the latest "news" coming out of Rider camp seems like a load of contrived pulp.

If there is an upside to injuries, it is that it gives a team a chance to look at players who would have stayed on either the practice roster or who focused on special teams. The downside of course is inconsistency.

Mr. Miller seems to think that with the players they have already on roster, that training camp could start tomorrow and the 'riders would be set. Extremely optimistic in my opinion. But who wants a coach who is not optimistic? There again Coach Miller has been honest in the past with comments about player development and coaching errors when he has made them, so I think his BS factor is less than most. Also, until recently, his media savvy has not been overly tested and we forget that is a skill that needs to be learnt and like others, he will learn with practise.

We are hungry for news concerning the 'riders no doubt about it and especially good news since ET's public humiliation. We will see how things go once free agency officially begins. I am certain more signings will be announced shortly afterwards. Exactly who that is, is anyone's guess (or hope).

well Oxbow, we had better be optomistic about the players we already have under contract as, except for a few free agents, what you see is what you get. Likely of the 68(?) players allowed, around 60-65 are under contract. Add some free agents, and that's it. Doesn't mean there won't be tinkering--just because a player signs in January does not mean he comes to camp in June.But mostly...
We only have one receiver spot up for grabs, likely an o-lineman if they do not sign Abou---and the guys already here last year have the upperhand for both positions.
On defence, if we sign LBs, we likely will see 2-3 changes on defence. If we don't sign them, obviously that jumps to 3-5. It is possible the only change on defence will be at safety. But I think some vets will need to perform in the exhibition season.