STILLWATER — During throwing sessions leading up to the Cleveland Browns' rookie minicamp, Brandon Weeden and Josh Cooper occasionally had an additional workout buddy.
The former Oklahoma State receiver spent last season playing for the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League and returns to that team's training camp on June 2.
He talked with me about the experience of playing in the CFL, watching the historic 2011 OSU season from afar and trying to learn some French while living in Montreal.
What brought you back to Stillwater to work out with Weeden and Cooper?
“You can't get work like that nowhere else. I came back down here to work with Brandon and Coop just to get ready, because I'm leaving in a week for training camp.”
How would you describe your rookie season in the CFL?
“It was fun. It was a good experience, because I got to develop more as a receiver and get into a pro offense. My coach, Marc Trestman, is a great coach and I'm learning a lot from him. It's a good situation. I was on the practice roster most of last year up there, and then started the last game as a returner. Now coming into camp, this is the year I've got to try to get a starting position at receiver and hopefully returner, as well.”
How have you developed most as a receiver?
“Coming to Oklahoma State, I played quarterback my whole life. I had only played receiver two seasons — 2008 and then the 2010 season, my final season. I was new to the position. I came into a team with a coach like Marc Trestman and the receiving corps that we have, and I learned so much. Just polishing my routes and reading defense, different things like that I got a lot better on. The main thing is just developing as a receiver from a route-running standpoint, because I had always played quarterback.”
What's the biggest adjustment you had to make from American football to Canadian football?
“One of the big differences is there's only three downs. So on first and second down, you've got to make plays. Every play counts. And for the same reason, three downs, there's a lot of special teams. So you've got a lot of special teams action, a lot of big plays to be made. You've got to get used to that — being able to convert on first and second down and knowing second down is like third down here in the States.”
I also overheard you mention to Weeden that you like the CFL ball better.
“It kind of feels like a bigger ball. It may not be, but it just feels like it's a bigger ball. And it does have two stripes on the end. So to me, you can pick it up better, just that white flashing in instead of all brown.”
Did you pick up some French while living in Montreal?
“I'm trying, and I'm going to continue to keep trying. They definitely speak a lot of French up there, and English, as well. That's tougher than I thought it was going to be. Luckily, everyone up there pretty much speaks both. You don't run into too much trouble, but if you do get into the French part (of the city), you better have one of your Canadian teammates with you or something.”
Are the stadium announcements during games done in both English and French?
“Oh, definitely. We have a big French-based crowd. They'll still say everything English, and translate (into French). It's definitely a big part of Quebec and Montreal.”
How closely were you able to follow OSU's season last year?
“I watched it all year. I was tuning in. If I couldn't watch it, I was finding out what the score was. Those are the guys I played with, and we almost did it last year. I knew that these guys, they all developed, they all got better. I knew they were going to do good.”
Was it hard to find those games on TV in Canada?
“It was kind of hard. Some of them I had to get on the Internet and watch. Occasionally, one would fall on TV. I had to go to places — sports bars and grills — to find them. But I'd find them.”