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Breedlove still a Mad Dog; the final cut comes today

And then there were 50.

Lecanto High graduate Brad Breedlove was one of 120 players who descended on Memphis, Tenn., in late May with the goal of becoming a member of the Mad Dogs expansion team in the Canadian Football League.

The Mad Dogs, of course, had no way of accommodating 120 dreams. In the ensuing weeks, they've been forced to make cut upon cut down to an even 50 players, and Breedlove is one of them.

The numbers game, so daunting before, has appeared to shift in Breedlove's favor, but there's one final cut. Today, Memphis will trim its roster to 37 players, with 10 more being named to the practice squad.

According to Travis Lawrence, the Mad Dogs' media liaison, there's every chance Breedlove will be in uniform when the team opens the regular season on Thursday in Calgary.

"It doesn't look bad at all," Lawrence said. "Brad's turned a few heads since he's been here. The coaches like his speed and his hands, and the way he runs a perfect route. Right now it looks like only three people are going to go home, and probably not that many.

"The team has to cut to 47 players, with 10 of them first going on waivers. If those 10 pass through waivers unclaimed, they'll go on the practice squad. Most likely some of them will be taken, though, opening up more spots on the practice squad."

"I'm trying to be optimistic," Breedlove said the day before Memphis' first exhibition game. "They've given me a good look and that's all I hoped for. Now it's up to me. If I can stay away from injuries, anything could happen."

Breedlove is currently a receiver on the second unit, but is a member of the punt, kickoff, and punt return teams. He has seen considerable action in Memphis' two exhibition games.

In the first, a 35-14 loss to San Antonio, he played most of the second half, catching two passes for 19 yards and returning a punt for an additional 6 yards.

"Brad certainly looked like he belonged out there against San Antonio," said Lawrence. "In addition to the two passes he did catch, he came really close to hauling in another one that would have been a 60-yard touchdown. The throw was long, but he almost made a spectacular catch."

In the team's second game, a 28-21 victory over Ottawa on Thursday, Breedlove again received a substantial amount of playing time in the second half. His one reception for 19 yards, though, was eventually waved off after the referees ruled he'd come down out of bounds.

"The tape looks like he was in bounds," said Lawrence. "It was a great catch any way you look at it. He knew he was close to the line and made a great effort to stay in."

In Thursday's opener against Calgary, Memphis will have to contend with a team that's just three years removed from capturing the Grey Cup, and one sporting the league's most valuable player the past four years, former Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie of Boston College.

Breedlove, who took a leave of absence from his job at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to try out for the Mad Dogs, signed a two-year deal contingent on making the final roster or the practice squad.

While Memphis is one of four new teams this year, that hasn't worked to Breedlove's or any other rookie's advantage. The Mad Dogs may be an expansion club, but their rolls are filled with experienced veterans and free agents lured by an owner with deep pockets who thinks the future is now.

"I'm happy to still be here," said Breedlove. "I just hope I can hang on a while longer."

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