Gryphon fifth-year defensive back Mikey Carney decided to stay away from basketball courts this off-season.He watched the Gryphons’ Yates Cup-winning season from the sidelines last year after rupturing an Achilles tendon in the off-season. That injury led to a new rule he imposed on himself.“I was playing basketball before the season started. Don’t do that, that’s for sure,” he said following Friday’s training camp session at Alumni Stadium. “I’m here to play football, so I should just focus on playing football.”Carney’s back on the field now, but it was a long process to return to playing shape.“(I had to do) everything — lots of range of motion focusing on building the muscles around my leg,” he said. “You pretty much have to build yourself from the bottom up until you’re up into peak shape. You just have to stay focused and you have to be patient during the process.”Now it’s like he was never out.“I don’t feel like I missed a step. I feel amazing.”And there’s also the feeling he has being able to play his favourite sport again.“I spent about a year trying to get back to health,” he said. “Being back on the field with all my teammates again is an unbelievable feeling. You don’t realize how much you’re missing out on until it’s taken from you. Just to be back out here is a pleasure.”After missing out on last season, Carney has noticed changes in the Gryphon program and the affect that has on the players.“I think it’s just getting better,” he said. “This program is developing. Every facet of this program is improving and to see all the efficiencies getting better, the locker rooms getting better, the camaraderie from offence to defence — there’s no more rivalry. For everyone, it’s team first.”Carney’s also been impressed with his younger teammates, the rookies and the second-year players he got to watch from the stands last season.“It’s a big rookie class and we’ve got a lot of young guys taking reps. They’re really picking it up well,” he said. “The vets are doing what the vets are supposed to do and we’re taking leadership roles. We’re also trying to pass our knowledge on to the rookies to help them on along the way because if some guys is doing something wrong, then the whole team is not getting better the way we should.”Defensive back is one of the veteran positions on the Gryphon squad as Carney joins Tristan Doughlin and Colin Manditch as fifth-year returnees and the younger players are fleet of foot.“We’re older than in years past,” Carney said. “A lot of the younger guys that I hadn’t had the pleasure of playing with before are on the field now and they look fantastic. They’re fast.”In 2014, Carney had 27 tackles and an interception in the regular season and he had 22.5 tackles the season before. However, he’s not looking at those numbers as he readies himself for his return campaign. He has no personal goals.“It’s nothing to do with me,” he said. “Nothing less than a Vanier Cup, that’s the goal. (It’ll be a disappointment) if we don’t win a Vanier Cup because I definitely believe we can. A Vanier Cup is definitely the goal.”He’s hoping to get a chance to be on the field to celebrate that win after missing out celebrating the OUA championship Yates Cup win as a playing member of the squad.“I would’ve loved to be out there with everyone, but the way things turned out,” he said. “I just try to take the positive out of everything. The Yates Cup is the Yates Cup, but we’re looking past that now.”The Gryphs are preparing for a controlled scrimmage with the McMaster Marauders Sunday at 1 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.That game effectively brings training camp to an end as next week will be all about getting ready for the season and home opener against the Toronto Varsity Blues Aug. 28 at 1 p.m.