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Sports >  EWU football

Ex-Eastern Washington standouts in Canadian Football League face uncertainty about upcoming season

UPDATED: Fri., March 27, 2020

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. throws a pass during first-half CFL play against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Montreal on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. (Graham Hughes / AP)
Montreal Alouettes quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. throws a pass during first-half CFL play against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Montreal on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. (Graham Hughes / AP)

Vernon Adams Jr. is making the most of his days in self-quarantine.

The former Eastern Washington and Oregon quarterback has turned his garage into a makeshift gym, roughly six weeks before he’s scheduled to report to the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes for training camp.

The 2020 CFL season is widely expected to be delayed amid the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, but Adams and several other former EWU stars who play north of the border are preparing like it isn’t.

Well, trying to.

Adams, who lives in Tacoma and can rarely leave his residence due to Washington’s “Stay Home – Stay Healthy” order, set up a quarterback net on Thursday to help sharpen his accuracy.

His correspondence with coaches, coordinators and teammates is done on the computer.

“It’s life. You have to control what you can control, so I’m just getting it in at home,” said Adams, who signed a nearly $1.5-million contract with Montreal in January.

Adams, 27, had a breakout 2019 season in the French-Canadian city, totaling 3,942 passing yards and 24 touchdowns, as well as 394 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Montreal reached the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

He’s cherishing his time at home with 5-year-old son Kash as he awaits the league’s next move.

“I am not angry,” Adams said. “Now I have to stay ready so I don’t have to get ready.”

The CFL recently canceled its combine and worldwide draft, and according to reports has put together contingency plans in case it ultimately decides to put the season on hold.

The regular season typically begins the first week of June.

Three of the league’s nine teams feature former EWU quarterbacks, including Adams, Calgary Stampeders star Bo Levi Mitchell and Matt Nichols, who is expected to start for the Toronto Argonauts after spending much of his veteran career with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Mitchell, one of the league’s most recognizable figures, has won a pair of Grey Cup titles in Calgary. He helped EWU win a national title in 2010.

In a recent interview with a Calgary sports radio station, Mitchell talked about his concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

“My biggest fear has been my 10-month-old daughter just being out and about,” Mitchell told Sportsnet 960 The Fan. “The scary part is you got a lot of young, healthy guys in that locker room who know they’re going to be healthy and if they get sick they’ll be sick for a couple weeks and be OK.

“But you worry about your kids, or I’m sure Canadian players worry about their parents and grandparents. It’s hard to think about, but it’s the time we’re living in right now and we’ve all got to adjust and be prepared for the worst but hope for the best.”

Defensive backs T.J. Lee (British Columbia), Victor Gamboa (British Columbia), Mitch Fettig (Calgary) and Josh Lewis (Hamilton) are other former EWU players on CFL rosters.

While veterans like Lee have already established themselves in the league, Fettig is hoping to keep his foot in the door during an uncertain time.

After a late-season knee injury kept Fettig out of EWU’s 2018 postseason run to the FCS national game, he had knee surgery and has been training for his professional career since.

It had been an arduous journey, Fettig said, as he waited for a phone call for a pro franchise that didn’t come.

That changed in late 2019 when he signed a free-agent contract with Calgary.

A good showing at preseason camp would likely give Fettig a concrete spot on the Stampeders’ roster, but now he isn’t sure when camp will start.

“It’s been tough,” Fettig said. “When I first got injured, I felt like my earth was crashing. But I have a strong faith in God, so I buckled up.

“I can’t control what’s going on now, so I am trying to stick to the script and keep training.”

That hasn’t been easy for Fettig, either.

Fettig’s gym has closed, and he said he’s been getting kicked off local high school fields in Olympia where he typically runs.

Fortunately for Fettig, his fiance’s parents have a barn they’re turning into a gym.

When he isn’t working on his body, he’s making a few extra bucks as Postmates food and goods deliverer.

“I am supposed to report to camp May 11, but it definitely sounds like they might postpone things,” Fettig said. “I am going to continue to train and wait it out.”

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