Alouettes starter Adams Jr. looking to build upon Alouettes' stellar '19 season

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. won't be heart-broken if training camp is pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Camps are scheduled to open May 17 but the league continues to discuss contingency plans because of the novel coronavirus outbreak. That includes a later start to camp, and by default, the proposed June 11 regular-season kickoff.

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Adams Jr. is anxious to build upon Montreal's stellar '19 season. The Alouettes (10-8) registered double-digit wins for the first time since 2012 and mad the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

But Adams's wife is expecting their first child May 21.

"That's the tough thing about it," Adams said during a telephone interview from his home in Tacoma, Wash. "In a way I'm kind of hoping training camp is pushed back just a bit so I can be there for the birth.

"We'll see what happens."

Adams played a big role in Montreal's resurgence, thriving under rookie head coach Khari Jones, himself a former CFL quarterback.

Montreal promoted Jones, its offensive co-ordinator, to head coach a week before the regular season after Mike Sherman was fired. The Alouettes opened 0-2 under Jones, then reeled off two wins before GM Kavis Reed was terminated.

But Montreal rallied behind Jones to finish second in the East Division to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (15-3). The Alouettes' promising season ended with a 37-29 home loss to Edmonton in the East semifinal.

Adams began the year backing up Antonio Pipkin but went under centre when Pipkin was hurt. The five-foot-10, 200-pound Pasadena, Calif., native never looked back, passing for 3,942 yards with 24 TDs while rushing for 394 yards and 12 touchdowns — all career highs.

Montreal signed Adams through 2022 in January. Jones also received a new deal in a busy off-season that saw the Alouettes also secure new owners (Ontario businessmen Sid Spiegel and Gary Stern), a new president (Mario Cecchini) and GM (Danny Maciocia).

For the first time since entering the CFL in 2016, Adams will head into a training camp as a bona fide starter. But the 27-year-old said the real work begins now.

"At the end of the day, winning is all that matters," he said. "I don't care about my stats — obviously I've got my personal goals — but winning games is what matters most to me."

And to achieve that, Adams is trying to evolve as a quarterback.

"I'm just taking those next steps as a leader, as a professional quarterback," he said. "At first last year, and even in years before, I didn't say much . . . but I feel now guys are trusting me to be their leader, their guy.

"It's not going to be whatever Vernon says, goes. I want to hear what everybody thinks and I think they want to hear what I think and we're going to come together. I think that's what the good teams do. I'm going to work on my leadership and keeping my composure and not letting other guys get under my skin. Just be that Ricky Ray calm, cool and collected."

Adams' path to success has been twisted. The former Oregon Duck contemplated retirement after stints with Montreal (2016), Saskatchewan (2017) and Hamilton (2018), which tried converting Adams to receiver.

But Adams says he has matured a lot since then.

"I remember when I was a rookie and not taking football as seriously and I wasn't doing my job," he said. "I wasn't watching film, I wasn't lifting weights, I wasn't doing anything, really, as a rookie in the off-season because I was just a scout-team player and I didn't help the team much.

"When you have that mindset, it brings everybody down. I had to learn that and I know some of these young guys have to learn it as well. I'm trying to instill it into them right now and let them know, 'I've been through this. I've been traded, I've been cut but this is what it takes to be successful and if we're all on the same page, we're going to be straight."

Adams credits Jones for his success.

"Getting Khari back was huge for the team and my personal growth," Adams said. "There are many former players who're coaches now but he's that quarterback, that cool guy, that laid back-type coach who took care of us as a team and always had his quarterback right.

"Khari and I have so much in common being shorter (quarterbacks) and African Americans. I think he's just a perfect fit for us all."

An admitted home body, Adams. has had no difficulty complying with current social-distancing protocols. Instead of working out with a group of players, Adams either trains alone or with his wife in the gym they built in their garage in February.

"I'm motivating myself right now," he said. "I just ordered a quarterback net because you can't get with too many receivers so I'll use that for now and go from there."

While there's uncertainty surrounding the CFL season, Adams Jr. said his job is to ensure he's ready when camps open.

"I'm staying ready so I don't have to get ready," Adams said. "That's what I've told our guys: Stay ready and do what you do . . . so when we get that call, whether it's at the start of the summer, mid-summer or end, we're ready."

As Adams sees it, now's the time for Montreal to resume its winning ways. From 1999 to 2012, the Alouettes topped the East Division nine times and played in eight Grey Cups, winning three.

"Many of us are young guys . . . we don't want to wait until we're in our 30s to win a Grey Cup," Adams said. "We want that old Montreal destiny, 2009-10 (when Alouettes won consecutive titles).

"I think this is really the time to do it because we have such a good team, good chemistry, good bond, good coaches, everything. I know everybody can say that about their team but when you look at our games last year we were within 14 points in all except one (a 41-10 loss to Hamilton). I think that showed how good we can be."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 26, 2020

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