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        Beyond The Ball — canada

        Notebook: Ed Gainey is picking up the pace

        Notebook: Ed Gainey is picking up the pace

         Ed Gainey felt he was due.

        The Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive back has recorded six interceptions this CFL season — all in the span of the team’s past three games. Those six picks are one more than Gainey had in 60 career games entering the 2017 campaign.

        “Over the course of the years of my career in the CFL, I haven’t really been able to play defence like that,” Gainey said after picking off Matt Nichols twice in the Roughriders’ 38-24 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Sunday at Mosaic Stadium. “The first four years, I played special teams mostly and I would come in on certain packages and play a little bit of defence.

        “Being in Saskatchewan, Coach (Chris) Jones and Shives (defensive backs coach Jason Shivers) and everybody, they really believe in me and they have my back. I’ve been able to focus that much more on my craft and focus that much more on my role as a defensive player.”

        Gainey began his CFL career with the Montreal Alouettes in 2012 and spent two seasons there. He played two seasons (2014-15) with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats before signing with Saskatchewan prior to the 2016 season.

        He had two interceptions for the Tiger-Cats in 2014 and three with the Roughriders last season. On Aug. 13, Gainey had a franchise-record four picks against the B.C. Lions before snaring two more on Sunday.

        His first-quarter interception led to a one-yard touchdown run by Vernon Adams Jr., that gave Saskatchewan a 17-3 lead. Gainey made his second pick in the Roughriders’ end zone with 2:16 left in the fourth quarter to snuff out a Winnipeg drive.

        His spree of thefts started after Jones talked to Gainey about picking up his play.

        “It probably had a lot less to do with me and more about him as the player recognizing the fact that, ‘Y’know what? He’s probably right,’ ’’ Jones said. “(It was about) going back to look at the film, putting the work in and trusting his ability to go make football plays.”

        In Gainey’s mind, he’s just repaying the trust Jones showed in him.

        “Before I came here my first year, I felt like there weren’t going to be too many teams that wanted to have me on their team,” said Gainey, who noted he felt like he had “a short leash” when he played with other teams. “Coach Jones showed that he wanted me here and I just took that and ran with it.

        “I heard that he was a good coach, I saw that he had won championships and he’s a winning coach, so I just wanted to come over here and play for him. I’m really just trying to make Coach Jones, Shives and all these guys happy about bringing me here.”

        **Ed Gainey had two interceptions this past weekend while wearing the Phenom Pro Solids.

        Original Article by: 

        Buccaneers: Oh Canada… Antony Auclair makes the 53 man roster

        Buccaneers: Oh Canada… Antony Auclair makes the 53 man roster

         

        UDFA Antony Auclair has Buccaneers GM Jason Licht and his coaches believing in his upside. So much so, the tight end that played his college ball in Canada has earned himself a spot on the 53 man roster.

        Today is the day (Saturday, September 2nd) that NFL teams tell over 1,000 players they are not good enough to make their squad. Per Greg Auman, Tampa Bay Times Buccaneer beat reporter, Antony Auclair will not be among them.

        Auclair played collegiate football north of the border with the Canadian football powerhouse Laval College. He’s considered to be more of a mauler while blocking at the point of attack rather than a technician. Auclair does have the speed get separation from linebackers in coverage, but the obvious jump in competition was going to be his biggest hurdle to overcome.

        The Buccaneers got an extended look at Auclair during the draft process, when the 6’5″ 256 lbs tight end was invited to play in the East West Shrine Game. The college All-Star exhibition is played in St. Petersburg, just a short drive from Bucs headquarters. So their scouts and Jason Licht were able to get an up close look at Auclair against some of the best competition in the country.

        Licht and company came away with a draftable grade for Auclair. Per NFL.comAntony was projected to be selected in round 5 or 6. When tight end OJ Howard fell to the Buccaneers in the 1st round all hopes for Auclair being drafted by Tampa went out the window. However, the Canadian went undrafted and Jason Licht moved quickly to get Auclair signed as a UDFA. The rest would be up to him.

        Tough cut was the phrase being thrown around Buccaneers training camp when discussing this years tight end group. Back were three players that made last years club. Cameron Brate, who led the league in touchdown receptions for his position. Luke Stocker, the savvy vet who knows the offense inside and out and can block as well as any NFL guard. Alan Cross, was a UDFA a year ago, who made the team with his balance of run blocking and pass catching ability. Add in a top 10 player from the entire draft OJ Howard and Tevin Westbrook, who has spent the past two seasons on the practice squad learning head coach Dirk Koetter’s playbook. Antony had his worked cut out for him. It was most definitely going to be a tough cut.

        As some of you may know I attended all of the Buccaneers open practices, minus Veterans Appreciation Day and I kept my eye on Auclair. To make a long story short as they say. Antony looked like a big physical tight end that played his college ball in Canada and was making a big jump up in competition, but he was putting in the work.

        Several times I witnessed Auclair being told exactly where to lineup presnap. Either a step up on the line or being waved out further to the sideline by the quarterback. It wasn’t uncommon to see Koetter pull Auclair to the side after a rep and correct a minor route mistake. After practice Ryan Griffin could be seen walking Antony through some of the more intricate nuances of redzone route running.

        Personally I never saw Antony Auclair flash, or have a stand out practice, but Jason Licht is always looking towards the future. With Luke Stocker getting up there in age and the Buccaneers planning to use the two tight end sets for the foreseeable future. Tampa will need a versatile player such as Auclair, that can block like an offensive lineman and get separation against NFL linebackers. Also with college football offenses’ being dominantly spread, good to very good blocking tight ends are becoming harder and harder to find.

        Make no mistake Antony Auclair made the Bucs roster on hopeful potential not contributing ability. I think the Buccaneers keep five tight ends on this years roster, with only Tevin Westbrook not making the team. (Westbrook was cut yesterday) I don’t expect Auclair to be dressed for many games either. Showing up on the list of seven players that are inactive for every NFL game.

        That being said Antony Auclair had the odds stacked severely against him. He faced them head on and overcame them to make his American dream come true. Hoe many of us can say the same.

        Original Article by: Douglas O'Connor via the Pewter Plank

        Auclair’s Bucs Training Camp Diary: There Is No Pressure

        Auclair’s Bucs Training Camp Diary: There Is No Pressure

        Tampa Bay rookie tight end Antony Auclair was one of the most sought after undrafted free agents by Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht. In fact, the Bucs had a draftable grade on Auclair and were thrilled when he signed with the team because they wanted another “F” tight end – a tight end that could block and catch as opposed to a “Y” tight end like Cameron Brate, who is primarily a receiving tight end. Dirk Koetter’s offense features two- and three-tight end sets quite often, and with veteran Luke Stocker, who is 29, entering his seventh season in the league, finding two tight ends that could block was crucial for the future of the position, which is why Auclair, who is very physical blocker, was signed even though the Bucs spent a first-round pick on tight end O.J. Howard.

        Auclair, who has a thick French-Canadian accent, isn’t your typical tight end. He hails from Notre-Dame-des-Pins in Québec, Canada where he played at Laval Université where he caught 17 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns. Auclair had six catches for 70 yards and a touchdown in Laval’s 31-26 win over Calgary in the Vanier Cup, which is the equivalent of the National Championship Game in American college football. While he was ranked as the second overall pick in the Canadian Football League, Auclair always had his sights set on playing in the National Football League.

        The Bucs were one of many teams to travel to Canada for his pro day after he opened a lot of eyes at the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla. in mid-January. Despite a hamstring injury, Auclair ran a 4.82 in the 40-yard dash and bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times. Now that he’s in Tampa, Auclair has the challenge of quickly learning the game of American football and fighting for a roster spot with Alan Cross and Tevin Westbrook behind Brate, Howard and Stocker on the depth chart. Follow Auclair’s journey into NFL football in Tampa Bay in his Training Camp Diary exclusively on PewterReport.com – and learn to speak French-Canadian, too.

        There Is No Pressure
        By Antony Auclair as told to Scott Reynolds
        I’ve played in two preseason games now and it was an awesome feeling going out for my first preseason game. I was on the opening kickoff in Cincinnati, so I got to play on the first play of the game, which was great. I was a little bit anxious, but I feel like I had a great game. I actually think I played better in that game than I did last week in Jacksonville. Blocking-wise I was better in Cincinnati. I did a good job in Jacksonville, but sometimes my angles in that game weren’t as good as they were in the first game.

        On a third-and-short play against Jacksonville I took a bad angle and missed my block. I think my guy made the tackle, but you have to move on to the next play. That’s how it is. You have to forget the last play and move on, which I did. We went for it on fourth down and I had a much better block and we made the first down.

        I did make my first catch in Jacksonville, which was really cool. It was third-and-9 – a pressure play, and Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a low ball and I made a nice catch for nine yards and the first down. I was really happy about that. My game wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t as good as the first one. I had a bad taste in my mouth after our last game.

        My roommate, Sefo Liufau, is now getting some playing time with the unfortunate injury to our backup quarterback Ryan Griffin. That’s how this game is. The next has to step up and he’s doing really well. He didn’t have many reps in practice at all and then in comes into the Cincinnati game and balls out. He’s doing great and I’m happy for him.

        I’m always working with Fitzpatrick on the second team and I think we are really connecting right now. We’re getting better together and I’m really excited about that.

        Everybody in our tight ends room is really good. I mean they are all good. It’s a good fighting group. Everybody competes hard and I can really learn from these guys. I have to compete every practice. It’s super competitive. With this heat, it’s really hard, but you have to grind every day. Training camp is a hard grind. I’m getting used to the heat, but sometimes it’s really hard to breathe. I’m glad we’re playing some night games in the preseason because this weather is crazy down here.

        I’m not really thinking about making the team. I’m focused on the next practice, the next game and always getting better. I always want to correct the things I did wrong and get better. I’m not thinking about making the team. I’m thinking about getting better.

        The fourth preseason game is where I will see a lot of action, but there’s no pressure on me. Football is fun. This game is fun and we play the game because we love it. There’s no pressure, just play and have fun.

        I really enjoy blocking and there’s only so much we can do in practice because it’s not like a game. I’m a physical player and a physical tight end and that shows up in the games. Where I have to improve is route running and I think I’m doing a better job at running my routes. I still have to get better, but I have to improve there. I also still need to work on my blocking, especially the right angles, which I didn’t do great in Jacksonville.

        The speed of our linebackers here in Tampa Bay is fast and I thought they might be the fastest, but I think everybody in the NFL has fast linebackers. The ‘backers in Jacksonville were also really fast. But going against our guys in practice is making me better on my cut-off blocks. They are fast, so I have to take better angles and that’s what I’m focused on.

        Our next preseason game is at home – finally – at Raymond James Stadium down the street. It’s going to be awesome. I’m looking forward to it playing at home, but I haven’t really thought about it until this week because I’m focused on the next practice. But it’s going to be great running out of our tunnel with our fans there.

        Auclair’s French-Canadian Phrase Of The Day
        I’m also going to teach you some French-Canadian in my Bucs Training Camp Diary on PewterReport.com. Here’s today’s phrase is “Où sont les toilettes s’il?” It’s a French way of saying, “Can you please tell me where the restroom is?” in English. After “What are we eating?” that’s the second-most important phrase!

        Original Article By: Scott Reynolds via Pewter Report

        Bucs' Antony Auclair turned heads long before singing 'O Canada'

        Bucs' Antony Auclair turned heads long before singing 'O Canada'

        TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie tight end Antony Auclair turned some heads on the first episode of HBO's "Hard Knocks" when he sang the Canadian national anthem for his teammates. 

        He caught head coach Dirk Koetter's eye long before that. 

        It was in January, at the East-West Shrine Game practices in St. Petersburg, not far from One Buc Place. Koetter saw a 6-foot-6, 256-pound prospect out of Laval Université, who was holding his own against far greater competition than he ever faced playing in Canada. 

        The Bucs had a goal of upgrading their "Y" tight end, a player responsible for run blocking and pass catching. It was a deep class of talented receiving tight ends, but they really wanted a player like O.J. Howard, who could do it all. They just didn’t think Howard would fall to them at No. 19. 

        Auclair fit the bill, however. The Bucs popped in some more tape on him and headed north for his pro day, along with 16 other NFL teams. They wound up signing him as an undrafted free agent. 

        "I’m very surprised that he wasn’t drafted," Koetter said. "We were excited about maybe drafting him in one of the later rounds. ... We feel like we got a real hidden gem, being able to get him as a free agent.” 

        Like Koetter, Auclair’s discovery of football came as a bit of a surprise. 

        “I think I was 12,” said Auclair in a thick French-Canadian accent. “I was watching a game with my dad [on TV]. I told him, ‘I want to play in this league,’ even though I had never played football before.” 

        When a lot of other youngsters in his hometown of Québec City were getting into hockey, Auclair wanted pigskin. 

        “I [was never] really a hockey fan,” Auclair said. “I don’t even know how to skate, to be honest with you.” 

        He chose Laval, a Canadian powerhouse that since 1996 has compiled a 127-36 record, with a 46-11 record in the postseason. The school also has nine Vanier Cups, the equivalent of the College Football Playoff National Championship. 

        Auclair's role there was as a "centre-arrière," much like that of a fullback. He caught 17 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns his senior year. In the 2016 Vanier Cup, he had six catches for 70 yards and a touchdown. 

        Canadian football rules are very different from American football. Unlike the 11-on-11 you see in the United States, Canadian teams play with 12 men on each side of the field. Those fields are 150 yards long and 65 yards wide. The distance goal-to-goal is 110 yards, with goal posts in the front of the end zone. 

        American football fields are 120 yards long, and 53.33 yards wide. The distance goal-to-goal is 100 yards, with goal posts in the back of the end zone. 

        In Canada, any number of offensive players can be sent in motion, whereas in the United States only one player is allowed and he can move laterally. 

        “Everyone’s set before the play. So it’s different,” Auclair said. “In Canada, we can move forward backward and sideways. Everyone can move so it’s a lot different.” 


        He has found that having sound technique -- a must in run-blocking and pass protection -- has helped make that transition easier. 

        “At the end of the day, football is football,” Auclair said. “So a power play would be a power play and a lead play would be a lead play.” 

        Another adjustment he has had to make? The weather. The football season in Canada runs from mid-August through the end of November. By the season’s end, temperatures dip to an average high of 23 degrees Fahrenheit with a low of 8. 

        In Tampa, temperatures from May through September can hover in the high 80s to mid 90s. During training camp, it rains daily, making the air damp and heavy. The humidity feels like a trip to the steam room. 

        “We played in the snow in playoffs and stuff,” Auclair said. “It’s really hot down here. I pulled my hamstring [in organized team activities], a little tweak because I was dehydrated, so I’ve gotta get used to that weather of course.” 

        He has never had to weigh himself before or after a practice, but now he must in order to measure his hydration levels, as cramping is quite common in practices. 

        Things are getting easier for him, but he faces an uphill battle in a crowded tight-ends room. 

        Howard is stepping in right away to assume a starting role, while Cameron Brate, whose eight touchdowns were tied for the most in the league last year among tight ends, remains a favorite target of Jameis Winston

        Veteran Luke Stocker is considered the team’s best run blocker. Tevin Westbrook already spent two years in the league on practice squads for the Bucs and Titans, while Alan Cross saw action in 14 games last year and had a touchdown in Week 11. But Auclair's raw talent and potential is hard to overlook. It's not often a guy can stand eye-to-eye with Howard and still look imposing physically. 

        "That guy, to get him as a free agent is an unbelievable get for us," tight-ends coach Ben Steele said of Auclair. "We’re excited about his progress." 

        He also faces a statistical battle. 

        There are 16 Canadian-born players currently on active NFL rosters for 2017. Only five of them spent their college careers in Canada -- Auclair, Stefan Charles (University of Regina), Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff (McGill University), Brett Jones (Regina) and Jon Ryan (Regina). 

        While the changes may seem like a lot to get used to, and there are enormous sacrifices moving to a different country, it’ll be worth it in the end if he can make the Bucs’ 53-man roster. 

        “I would be the first guy from my school [to make an NFL roster]. I was the first guy to sign a contract,” Auclair said. “Obviously that’s the main goal. It would mean a lot to me.”