Enough training!

Stampeders backup QB Darnell Kennedy plays some hacky sack during practice yesterday at McMahon...

Stampeders backup QB Darnell Kennedy plays some hacky sack during practice yesterday at McMahon Stadium. Kennedy may need to display some footwork of a different kind tonight when the Red and White hosts the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the first exhibition game of the 2005 CFL season. (Calgary Sun/Darren Makowichuk)

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

These two-a-day workouts and endless drills against teammates grow old fast, like banging your head against a red wall.

"It starts around Day 4," suggests Stampeders defensive lineman Sheldon Napastuk, entering his third year in Calgary.

"Everybody comes in excited, having fun the first few days. Then around Day 4, you get sick and tired of the same old faces, hitting the same guys day after day.

"That being said, we've had a great camp but it's time to get out there and start testing it out a little bit. We definitely have some work to do, installing a new offence and getting everyone on the same page on defence but everybody here's looking forward to it."

The "it" tonight is the CFL team's first pre-season game against Saskatchewan (7 p.m., McMahon Stadium), hated rivals to the east, when jobs will be won or lost based on a 60-minute performance.

"The first pre-season game is what it's all about," Napastuk says.

"We're starting to get into that foul mood with the 'Riders coming into town.

"Generally, you don't see the starters much and it's a chance for the young guys to take what they've done in practice and take it onto the field.

"There will be a lot of nerves on the young guys' part."

For centre Jamie Crysdale, the longest-serving Stampeder entering his 13th campaign, the first pre-season contest changes the complexion of camp. After nine days of mundane workouts, the hitting starts for real.

"You get to the point where you're playing the same defence day after day and it does get old, sort of monotonous and it makes it that much harder to get jacked up for practice," Crysdale says.

"To get the pre-season started is definitely a breath of fresh air."

While many of the veterans on the Stampeders roster will see little action tonight, the greybeards' role includes helping the newcomers show off their wares without becoming handcuffed by rookie jitters.

"You just have to encourage them to play hard because everybody makes mistakes but you can't let them influence the way you play," Crysdale explains.

"I've been in the league 13 years and I make mistakes but I tell the rookies you have to make those mistakes going 100 miles an hour."

Quarterbacks coach Bill Diedrick says tonight's matchup comes at a crucial time when a spark is needed to revive the lineup.

"In any camp at this time, you've got in about 16 or 17 practices," Diedrick notes.

"They get a little bit antsy they get tired. It's not boredom, we've put new things in to keep their attention that way, but you can tell they're getting a little bit edgy and game-ready.

"Even though it's a pre-season game, it's a big game for a lot of people and means a good deal to a lot of people.

"Some players are either going to stay or leave. Be a starter or not. It will be interesting. They'll take a step forward or a step back."


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