CALGARY — The Calgary Stampeders refuse to let a few injuries to key players dampen their enthusiasm heading into the CFL playoffs.
Calgary finished atop the CFL standings with a 14-4 record and earned the right to host the West Division final at McMahon Stadium on Nov. 17 against either the Saskatchewan Roughriders or the B.C. Lions.
In their final game of the regular season in Vancouver last Friday, the Stamps suffered a 26-7 setback to the Lions and also lost the services of three starters due to injury in the first half.
Defensive linemen Micah Johnson and Demonte Bolden both injured knee ligaments and receiver Marquay McDaniel sustained a high ankle sprain. With all three deemed unable to play in the West Final, the Stamps will count on other players to step up in their absence.
“That’s been our mindset all year,” said defensive tackle Junior Turner. “Guys have gone down and out and guys have filled in.”
Running back Jon Cornish, who was one of 10 Calgary players named to the CFL’s West Division all-star team on Wednesday, said that dealing with injuries is nothing new for the Stamps.
“We’re a team that played through all kinds of injuries last year and we came into this season virtually the same team,” said Cornish, who missed one game with a thigh contusion. “We understood that people get hurt playing football, so I don’t ever think that we need to do any rallying. The next guy up did what they needed to do and they understood that they either did it right or they’re off the team.”
Calgary coach John Hufnagel said that Turner and Etienne Legare will be counted upon to anchor Calgary’s defensive line up the middle, while he’ll also consider activating Earl Okine and/or Oren Wilson from the practice roster.
“We brought Mr. Wilson in to see what he can provide for us,” Hufnagel said. “Earl Okine’s been here for a couple, three, four weeks. With Etienne Legare and Junior Turner we have enough men to fill the holes.”
Standing 6-foot-6 and weighing in at 286 pounds, Okine appears to have the physical stature to make an impact on defence for the Stamps.
“The CFL is a tough game and absolutely it’s a very fast-paced athletic game and it takes a lot of adjustment, but I’ve been here,” said Okine. “I’ve been working very hard in practice, getting in with my defensive line, working very hard every day.”
The Stamps received some good news on Wednesday as Joe West returned to the practice field after missing the past three games with a shoulder injury, while fellow receiver Brad Sinopoli is close to making his return from a concussion he sustained on Oct. 18 in Edmonton during Calgary’s 27-13 win over the Eskimos.
“Brad Sinopoli was back on the practice field doing a bit of individual work,” Hufnagel said. “He’ll do a little bit of contact work (Thursday), but everything looks like he’ll be able to make the game, so we’ll adjust accordingly.”