Stamps are primed for the stretch run

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:56 AM ET

Sheldon Napastuk couldn't believe his eyes when he read the injury board yesterday morning.

To start Day 6 of Calgary Stampeders training camp, only one player was listed as sitting out the morning practice with an ailment.

Trainer Pat Clayton was just as impressed to report only a minor ache to linebacker Marc Mitchell (hip).

Napastuk, the starting nose tackle last season and a seven-year veteran, has never felt this good this far into camp.

There seem to be three reasons for the good report: The coaching staff hasn't pounded the players with too many one-on-one drills; head coach Tom Higgins runs a fast-paced practice, never letting any player sit still, meaning muscles can't cramp to the point where strains and pulls occur; and the Stamps have added strength and conditioning consultant Mark Killam to ease the burden on Clayton, who would usually run warmup and cool down for the two-a-day workouts as well as tend to bumps and bruises.

Killam walks the team through intricate stretching before and, more importantly to Napastuk, after each field workout.

"I've never had a cool down that's worked so well," Napastuk said. "I'm glad they scheduled it into the practice. Usually after practice, all we want to do is get in the locker-room and relax."

While the training room isn't exactly quiet, no one has suffered a season-threatening injury yet -- knock on wood, said Clayton.

"The coaches have been good this camp. They've been cognizant not to build that fatigue into them," he said, adding Killam will help the team in the long run.

"That component over the course of the season will come into play. The players who are left back (in Calgary) over the course of the season will get help with rehab. The guys on the practice roster will get some work done and will be supervised during that."

Rain forced the Stamps to use the McMahon Stadium turf again yesterday, which is always a cause for concern. Clayton said he's more worried about when the sun starts shining and the hard artificial surface dries out.

"When the turf is wet, the danger is much less," he said. "When the turf is dry and their traction is strong, that's when you get the problems."

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EXTRA POINTS: The Stamps signed import LB Frank Strong. Head coach Tom Higgins said Strong is a large player who can also run well. The USC product played six games with the San Francisco 49ers in 2002, mostly seeing action on special-teams coverages ... An intrasquad game is scheduled for this morning following an early workout. The club will run through 40 to 45 plays starting at 10 a.m. on the McMahon Stadium turf. All the action is free to the public.


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