Mitchell: 'This is one of those times where we need to band together'
CALGARY — 2019 was a rollercoaster for Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, and after going through an extensive off-season to work back from injury, he wanted to prove himself to the home faithful in 2020.
“I personally was disappointing on the field in the playoffs, at home in front of the fans and that’s something that I was really looking forward to; getting back on the field and just winning them over,” Mitchell said. “That’s my thought process every time I step on the field is knowing that there’s somebody out there, never seen me play and there’s fans in the stands that that expect a certain standard of play.
“I think I was just really excited to get out there and do that again, and kind of just remind everybody what happens every time the Stampeders step on the field.”
Those dreams, unfortunately, came to an end on Monday, as the CFL announced that there would not be a season in 2020.
It’s been a gruelling past year for the start pivot. Mitchell was injured during the team’s second game of the 2019 season against the BC Lions. After an initial stint on the six-game injured list, he had a setback and was forced to sit out more time with a pectoral injury. He returned for Labour Day against Edmonton and started the rest of the season for the Stamps.
Mitchell was able to go the rest of the way, leading the Stamps on a run to the West Division title which ultimately came up short in the final week of the campaign.
The Western Semi-Final loss still clearly looms overhead for the veteran, who’s become accustomed to making deep runs in the postseason during his nine years in the CFL. Despite wanting the chance to run it back, he did look at the silver lining.
Mitchell had shoulder surgery to fix up his throwing arm and he has been rehabbing it for the entirety of 2020 so far. He had previously said that he talked with Toronto Argonauts signal-caller — and close friend — Matt Nichols to see how to best use his time to get back strong for the year.
With this extra time off, the 30-year-old is looking at it as an opportunity to get his body back to a position where he feels like he’s “Back in his young 20s again.”
“A year is lost, but after coming off shoulder surgery, I really feel like this is going to help progress me for the next few years,” Mitchell said. “It’ll allow me to get my shoulder to 100 percent and feeling great. So I feel disappointed but blessed that I’ll be able to get my body and my shoulder ready to go.”
It’s been a trying time for players around the league. Because of the sudden cancellation, they’ll now need to figure out what they’d like to do outside the game. As Mitchell’s counterpart, Zach Collaros, pointed out on Monday, this might just be the perfect time for individuals to find out what their passions are outside the lines.
For many players, they’ve put so much work and time into honing their craft that other aspects of life have taken a backseat. While it’s not under ideal circumstances, they have some time to figure out some things.
“I think everybody is in a very unique situation. Guys have to handle their livelihoods and careers and do what’s best for them.,” Mitchell said. “If anybody has to move on, I’m not going to blame anyone or scold anyone. Some guys have mortgages, some guys don’t. Some go back to live with family members. So whatever they’ve got to do job-wise to get by and get ready for the season, I’m all for it.
“… It’s a bad situation for everybody and we all wish we were playing football right now. But I think we have to look at it in the most positive way that we can. It really gives us a chance to look at ourselves as a league and as teams and find ways to make it better and make it stronger for everybody.”
Mitchell talked about the impact that the fans have on the Canadian game and what their absence due to the pandemic meant for the eventual outcome that was reached on Monday. He also added that if he had one suggestion, he’d want to see the season moved up to March, but he knows that might not be possible with COVID still being an issue.
While it’s a tough pill to swallow, Mitchell is one of the faces and leaders of the league, and he’s looking forward to working with his teammates, the players around the league and the CFL to get back on track in 2021.
“This league has been a part of Canada for over 100 years. It’s not easy to keep a business going for that long and there has been some turmoil,” Mitchell said. “I think this is one of those times where we have to band together instead of pointing fingers saying, ‘Where’s mine?’ I just want to see the CFL and PA and players work together in a more unified sense.
“… Right now, we just need to come together and really find a way to make the CFL better, not just for 2021 but for the next 10 years and 50 years for guys that are going to come after us. I think this is a good chance to do it.