Sign on line

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

After all the turmoil, humiliating defeats and early exits without a CFL playoff cheque, why would players stick with the Stampeders?

For non-import offensive linemen Jeff Pilon and Taylor Robertson, currently negotiating new contracts to stay in Calgary long-term, it's about hope for the future.

They're both convinced the horse is finally running in the right direction and are eager to be on board for the ride.

"I don't want to leave Calgary," insists Pilon, a six-year veteran not sounding too anxious to test the free agent market after this season. "Calgary's my home but there's no rush. We have the whole year. Why rush into something?"

Along with veterans Jamie Crysdale and Jay McNeil, the line has been blamed for a weak rushing attack since Kelvin Anderson's departure after the 2002 season. That is expected to turn around in 2005 with both Joffrey Reynolds and Ronney Jenkins churning out the yards in their first full campaign in Calgary.

The unit also isn't credited with decent pass protection, despite giving up the second-fewest sacks in the league last season (22).

All this while pinned to a wall through the first six games last season under former offensive co-ordinator John Jenkins, who refused to run the ball, allowing opposing defences to tee off on the target under centre.

Some critics have even claimed free-agent acquisition Henry Burris is taking his life in his hands this season in Calgary's backfield, something Pilon refutes.

In fact, a balanced attack along with the elusive Burris in the backfield might makes sacks even more precious for opposing defences.

"I think we're the best offensive line in the league," boasts Pilon, 29, entering his sixth season with the Stampeders, pointing out the team abandoned the run for a third of the year.

"We had the second-fewest sacks in the league last year and the first six games we only had 50 yards rushing.

"I think we've got one of or the best offensive lines in the league but what offensive lineman isn't going to say his line isn't the best.

"Any o-lineman who says his line isn't the best shouldn't be playing."

Right guard Taylor Robertson's agent is also working on a contract extension that would keep the Brantford, Ont., product in Red and White well into the Stampeders' new era. Lining up beside Pilon, Robertson is looking to become a permanent fixture along the o-line.

"The city's been good to me the last couple of years, especially compared to travelling around the league playing," said Robertson, 24, entering his third season in Calgary after being cut loose by the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles.

Pilon only has to look to Crysdale and McNeil, veterans now in their second decade in the CFL, as a benchmark for his career.

"I'd like to play at least 10 years ... every year after 10 is a bonus for me," Pilon says. "I want to play as long as Jay and Jamie have been and I want to stay here.

"The whole organization from the top down is awesome and I want to be a part of it."


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