Nobody’s safe at this time of year — not a single soul
BEING a veteran on a pro football team comes with few assurances — this much Matt Bucknor has learned over his four-year Canadian Football League career.
Having a leg up on the young bucks might be one of them, but to say anything is a given for even a roster-hardened player would be inaccurate. Nothing is etched in stone and shoulder-checking isn’t needed only in driving school.
Bucknor, who etched out a regular spot in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers secondary last season, starting all 18 games, is taking nothing for granted. His early history trying to garner training camp invites taught him better
“I’ve been in a position where I was watching training camps in 2011 and 2012,” Bucknor said, referring to not being passed over for main camps. “Being out here, it’s an honour and a privilege, so you take advantage of every single rep, every single day you’re in a meeting room or a locker room, because you never know when it will be taken away.”
The thought has crossed Bucknor’s mind, especially since veteran defensive back Chris Randle has been slotted into Bucknor’s familiar cornerback spot after playing linebacker last season. But he’s taking the high road in that discussion.
“For the secondary, it’s great,” Bucknor said. “He’s a proven defensive back. He’s out there just like everyone else. It’s great to have him back. He’s a great teammate on the field and in the locker room. He’s awesome. I’m happy for him.”
Veteran linebacker Sam Hurl finds himself in a similar battle at middle linebacker. With the return of Ian Wild and the emergence of rookie Kyle . Knox, the battle for a spot on the roster is cutthroat.
“It definitely is,” Hurl said, “but I think at the end of the day each guy understands that. That guy isn’t making the decision whether I’m on the field or not. At the end of the day, I’m going to try to help him be as good as he can be and he’s going to do the same. However it pans out, whether I’m the starter or he’s the starter, we got to worry about the team. This year is about a Grey Cup. Every year is about a Grey Cup.” Like Bucknor, Hurl has seen it all. “The biggest thing I’ve learned over the years is it doesn’t matter who the guy is or how old he is,” he said. “I’ve seen guys you’d say are a sure-lock to make the roster and they end up getting cut, not even put to second string.
“At the end of the day, there’s no security there, no guaranteed spots. They’re looking for younger guys to take the spots. Nothing’s a given. I come out here and control what I can.”
Hurl feels being a vet allows for an advantage, even if small.
“I have a comfort level that some of these guys coming in here don’t, they don’t know what they’re getting themselves into,” he said. “The older you get, the more you come to understand what is important and what isn’t.”
Sam Hurl is in tough at LB.