CALGARY — After a successful regular season, the Calgary Stampeders were rewarded with some time off to rest, relax and recuperate.
They returned to practice Thursday but they’re still playing a bit of a waiting game.
As they begin preparation to host the West Division final Nov. 21, the Stampeders won’t know for a few more days who their opponent will be. That won’t be determined until there’s a winner in Sunday’s semifinal between B.C. and Saskatchewan in Regina.
“Both teams we had success against and both teams had success against us as well,” said Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris.
“I really don’t care.
“It’s really all about making it happen regardless of who steps on this field with us. Whenever you play at home, you should always have success and you should always feel you have that upper hand going in.”
Calgary closed out their impressive 13-5 season with a 35-32 win over Winnipeg last Friday, then enjoyed five days off. While it was nice to get the break, the players were itching to get back on the field by Thursday.
“I was ready to get back out here today,” said linebacker Juwan Simpson. “I wish it was preparation for game week, but it was good to get back on the field with the guys.”
Offensive lineman Ben Archibald said the players appreciated the time off and returned to the field with renewed enthusiasm.
“It was really nice to have some time away, just to come back fresher mentally,” said Archibald.
As they returned to work, Archibald, Simpson and Burris received some good news. All three were chosen as West Division finalists for the 2010 player awards. A day earlier, 13 Stamps were named league all-stars.
But the Stamps weren’t spending much time thinking about the individual accolades.
“The coach went down the list, we gave applause and that was it — throw it out the window,” said all-star cornerback Dwight Anderson, who now has his sights set on advancing to the Grey Cup in Edmonton on Nov. 28. “At the end of the day, we’ve just got to go out there and do what we do, play Stamps football and go ahead and just get this ring.”
Stamps coach John Hufnagel liked what he saw from his players after their extended break, saying they were “pretty high-spirited.” The Calgary coaching staff will run practices again Friday and Saturday before giving the players a few more days off.
“We have some extra time to work on technique and fundamentals (to) make sure that our skill level stays the same or we increase the skill level,” said Hufnagel, who stopped practice and gathered with his players on the field at 11 a.m. for a moment of silence in honour of Remembrance Day.
Thursday’s practice was all about getting the team back into “football mode,” said running back Joffrey Reynolds.
“We’re just trying to sharpen up our skills so it’s not a shock to you to get bumped around,” he said. “Right now, everybody’s mind frame is that we’re just trying to prepare ourselves and stay physically in shape. The mental preparation obviously will come once we find out who we play.”
Burris commended the Calgary coaching staff for keeping the players focused on the task at hand even though the Stamps won’t know who they’re playing until Sunday.
“They do a great job of getting after us and making us compete while we’re out here against each other,” Burris said.
“We’re out here trying to make each other better as well. Even though we finished off the season on a high note, it’s all about how you go into this new season.
“We want to make sure we keep our edge that we have right now. That’s what these three days of practice are going to do for us up until Sunday. After that, we’ll know who we’re playing and it’ll be time to game plan and get after it for real then.”