Pete Garcia, The Sports Guy
With day-time highs hovering around a comfortable 62 degrees, training camp in Winnipeg, Manitoba is at least comfortable.
Still, Chris Brazzell is feeling the heat. With six seasons under his belt, the one-time NFL prospect is an established veteran in the Canadian Football League.
With World-class sprinter's speed, a 6-foot-3, 206- pound frame and sure hands, he is a prized commodity in the CFL.
Defensive backs have a hard time catching him, but that hasn't been a problem for father time. Not to say that Brazzell is fading, but at 31, the Alice Coyotes football program's favorite son is getting older in a league where the competition - even the competition to make the Blue Bombers' roster - continues to get younger.
There are 10 other receivers on the Blue Bombers' roster; all younger than Brazzell. Just this season alone, Winnipeg added six receivers to its training camp roster, including four proven free agents.
This training camp has been a memorable one for Brazzell. For one, he's healthy. He's also catching the ball and running crisp routes
"I've been doin' this for seven years now (in the CFL), nine years total, so I understand how this game works," Brazzell recently told a CFL Web site. "You're trying to stay ahead of the young guys. Some receivers get cut because they're just not fast enough. They can't get open anymore. I see it happen all the time. I can still do it.
"I'm not playing forever. But one thing about Chris Brazzell: I'm still fast. I've had a great training camp. There's no fear. I don't even know the last time I ever had any fear of not making a team."
But Blue Bombers coach Doug Berry said many jobs, especially at receiver where there is a wealth of talent, can go to anyone.
"One that everyone is aware of, including Chris Brazzell, is the spot that he plays," Berry said. "Chris has had an outstanding camp, but that's just an example of a veteran who's played here before feeling the pressure. It will depend on how well they play as well as the things they can't control - how well the other guy plays."
Adding to training camp drama is the addition of new quarterback Justin Holland. The former Colorado State star was on the Miami Dolphins practice squad last season. Still, he is new and presents just another obstacle for Brazzell to overcome this summer.
Brazzell is coming off an average season with Winnipeg. He started 17 of 18 regular season games for the Blue Bombers as well as the CFL East Semifinal versus the Toronto Argonauts. He was the club's second leading receiver during the regular season with 604 yards on 43 receptions. He tied for the club lead in receiving TDs with seven. His best game of the season was a four-catch, 181-yard and two-TD performance July 1 against the Edmonton Eskimos. He was the CJOB Offensive Player of the Game for his performance in that Week 3 win over the Eskimos. Brazzell turned in another solid performance in the East Semifinal, making two grabs for 38 yards and one TD.
In his first season with Winnipeg, Brazzell helped breathe new life into the Bomber offense. In his first three games with the Bombers, he hauled in 12 passes for 307 yards and two TDs. In all, he finished with 24 catches for 456 yards and four TDs with the Bombers. His average gain of 18.2 yards per catch was second best on the club.
Prior to joining Winnipeg, Brazzell had 22 catches for 252 yards and two TDs in six games with Hamilton.
In 2004, Brazzell finished fourth on the British Columbia Lions in receiving with 49 receptions for 906 yards and eight TDs in 16 games. He had three 100-yard games during that span. Brazzell was equally effective in the post-season for the Lions.
He played in all 18 games in 2003 for British Columbia. He finished second on the team, and sixth in the CFL, with 1,111 yards on 68 catches including six receiving TDs. He registered five 100-yard receiving games.
In 2002, Brazzell played in 11 games in his second season with the Edmonton Eskimos.
He finished fourth among Edmonton receivers with 30 receptions for 546 yards and three TDs.
Brazzell joined the Eskimos' practice roster late in the season in 2001 after being cut by the Dallas Cowboys.