Question mark remains

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

For the second straight day, a huge question mark ran around the football field in control the Calgary Stampeders' offence.

But despite the '?' on Michael Souza's back, there's no question who will start tomorrow's game in Toronto.

The rookie pivot, who led the Stamps back from a 10-point deficit to beat B.C., may still be without a number after surrendering his No. 17 to newly acquired QB Khari Jones. But that didn't slow preparations yesterday for his first pro start.

And Souza has only three practice days to get focused for the Argonauts defence, which is one of the league's most complicated.

"It's difficult," Souza said. "We've simplified the game plan some and we've got some playmakers in here, so it's going to be a little easier on me.

"But we ended that last game on a big high. I hope that's going to carry over. I think that will lead us into the game."

Souza is in a unique position for a young pivot. Once Jones is fully healthy and comfortable with the Stamps' terminology and playbook, the veteran will take over the starting role for the rest of the season.

Souza will get one start and, win or lose, be reduced to a backup role.

That's the way Souza prefers it because this start won't make or break his career. He's also happy to have Jones, the former most outstanding player in the CFL, there to help.

"Bringing in Khari is great for the whole quarterbacking unit," Souza said. "It should be a long career ahead of me and I'll get playing time in the future.

"Having Khari here gives us plenty of leadership. I'm excited about it."

The first call Souza made when he found out he'd start was to his father in Salinas, Calif.

Larry Souza coaches a junior college team and first turned Mike onto the CFL by tuning in to a Grey Cup game years ago.

So the younger Souza has been absorbing advice for his first start from many places, including from his father over the telephone.

"He's pumped. Hopefully, I can do well and get a videotape down to him as soon as I can," the Stamps pivot said.

"He always tells me not to force it, stay calm and that I can do it.

"Being a dad, he knows a little more about me personally.

"So he understands what I go through and how to settle me down. He's good to talk to."

MARKETING MOMENT: Coinciding with the arrival of quarterback Khari Jones is the 2005 season-ticket drive. The Stampeders are holding the line on next year's ticket prices and from Nov. 1 to Dec. 1, a new pre-early bird special will cut $25 off the regular ticket price.


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