Ticats sign former NFL backup QB Brian Brohm
Most recently played in UFL
It seems Brian Brohm was destined to play in the Canadian Football League.
During his two seasons with the Las Vegas Locomotives of the now-defunct United Football League, Brohm watched CFL games and kept tabs on the league, and with good reason. Given the relative instability of the UFL, there was always the chance Brohm would eventually end up in Canada.
And that became a reality Wednesday when the former Louisville star quarterback signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Hours later, he was on the field completing passes as the CFL club opened its three-day mini-camp at McMaster University.
"I thought it was an exciting brand of football," Brohm said of his initial impression of Canadian football. "For a quarterback it's definitely a lot of fun to play, you throw the ball around a lot.
"You have a faster pace, you've got three downs to get that first down. You're going quick and have to get yards in a hurry."
But three downs and increased passing aren't the biggest adjustments American-born players must make when they come to Canada. There's the matter of playing a game with unlimited motion on a longer, wider field and having half the usual time to get the play off.
In both the CFL and NFL, the quarterback is the focal point of the offence.
But in Canada, he only has 20 seconds to run a play — compare that to 40 seconds south of the border. That forces the passer to quickly assimilate his pre-snap information while accounting for an extra defender and sometimes having to direct receivers depending on how the defence lines up.
"It's definitely an adjustment as a quarterback," Brohm said. "That outside throw from the far hash is definitely a little farther than I'm used to.
"I haven't played with a lot of motion before so that's something I'll also have to get used to. All of it is going to be an adjustment for me but I'm going to try and pick it up as quickly as I can."
There's little doubt about the 27-year-old Brohm's ability to throw the football.
The six-foot-three, 227-pound quarterback enjoyed a standout college career at Louisville, starting 33 games. He holds the conference and school career mark with 10,775 yards passing, completing 780 of 1,185 attempts (65.8 per cent) with 71 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.
He was taken in the second round, 56th overall, by the Green Bay Packers in the 2008 NFL draft. The Buffalo Bills signed the Louisville, Ky., native off Green Bay's practice roster in 2009.
Brohm appeared in three games over two seasons with the Bills, completing 27 of 52 passes for 252 yards with five interceptions and no TDs. He spent parts of the 2011 and 2012 seasons with the Las Vegas Locomotives before coming to the CFL.
Fortunately for Brohm, he has no shortage of learning tools at his disposal with Hamilton.
New head coach Kent Austin, 49, played quarterback for four CFL teams — Saskatchewan, B.C., Toronto and Winnipeg — over 10 seasons and has won Grey Cups as a player ('89 with Saskatchewan, '94 with B.C.) and coach ('04 with Toronto, '07 with Roughriders). Ticats starter Henry Burris is a two-time Grey Cup champion and the league's outstanding player in 2010 who is entering his 14th CFL season and 16th in pro football.
Competition for spots
Austin said every position on the Ticats' roster will be up for competition this year, although he does admit a veteran like Burris has a definite advantage over the others who will be taking snaps. Even Brohm said right now, his priority is getting comfortable with his new surroundings.
"Right now I'm just trying to get as good as I can get, pick up the offence and whatever happens, happens," he said. "I look forward to competing, definitely, but I'm just going to try and pick up the offence and learn as fast as I can."
"He's big, he's strong, he's accurate, he has been highly productive," Austin said of Brohm. "He was a great college player and is a coach's son and is a student of the game.
"He has the qualities we're looking for. We'll see if he can continue to develop."
Brohm does come to the CFL with previous pro experience, but Austin said that won't necessarily translate into a seamless transition.
"If there's something that we do that's related to the game down south then certainly that will help," Austin said. "But there's a lot of other things that are very new and different up here.
"It just depends on what we're trying to execute."
At least Brohm can count on getting a helping hand from Burris.
"I'm going to help them (Ticats' backups) because I was in that position at one time in my career and I had great guys helping me put myself in this position that I am today," Burris said. "At some point in the next number of years I'll pass the baton to somebody.
"I expect them to be ready and it's part of my job to help them be ready if anything were to happen to me."
One player who wasn't present Wednesday was receiver-kick returner Chris Williams. The CFL's top special-teams player last year remains under contract to the Ticats but suggested this off-season via Twitter that he wouldn't return to Hamilton in 2013.
Williams hasn't spoken publicly about his situation but word is he'd like to pursue an NFL opportunity.
Austin downplayed the significance of Williams' absence.
"We're working more on fundamentals here in this camp," he said. "The real work happens in training camp.
"Oh sure, we would've liked to see him but I would've liked to have seen a lot of guys here. I wish I could get everyone that's signed here ... I'm not concerned about it."