Stamp older, wiser

After leaving the NFL, MarTay Jenkins took two years off from football and was slow to round into...

After leaving the NFL, MarTay Jenkins took two years off from football and was slow to round into form with the Stamps. But he had a great night Friday. (Calgary Sun/Jack Cusano)

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:28 AM ET

Football players can gain plenty from biting their tongues and biding their time.

MarTay Jenkins is a prime example.

The first-year Stampeders wide receiver/kick returner was a regular performer in the NFL for four seasons, primarily with the Arizona Cardinals. After signing as a free agent with Atlanta in 2003 he was eventually benched before being placed on waivers, essentially ending his NFL career.

He says his negative reaction to being dropped from the Falcons starting lineup taught him a lesson about maturity and professionalism, an experience he drew from this season after being scratched from the Stampeders 40-man list a few weeks ago.

Friday against the Lions, Jenkins led all Calgary receivers with 87 yards on three receptions, including two TDs, while also returning four kickoffs for 84 yards.

While he was out, he didn't pout.

"I've been around for a while and I've seen the same situation before and I handled it differently this time," notes Jenkins, a former sixth-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys who has been away from football the past two seasons.

"I handled it a lot better this time. The same situation happened to me in Atlanta and I think I took the opposite route in terms of pouting and getting mad. I had been a starter and instead of just going in there in practice and playing my position and waiting for the opportunity to come back around, I handled it differently.

"This time was like deja vu, almost, and I wanted to handle it better, be a pro about it. Coach (Tom) Higgins gave me an opportunity to play again this season after being out for two years so having the confidence in me and bringing me in here after sitting for two years, I had to change my attitude."

Jenkins' performance against the Lions, in which he showed flashes of the speed and agility that made him a top NFL pick, impressed Higgins, assuring his return to the starting lineup Thursday in Montreal.

"I'm very proud and pleased with the way he reacted and responded," Higgins said.

"Now all of a sudden he's making a case for himself staying on the roster.

"It was a lesson well learned (in the NFL) and he did everything you'd want from a player presented with a tough situation to respond. Given the opportunity, he showed us a lot and now it's hard to find a reason to take him off."

Jenkins caught 82 passes with the Cardinals in 2000. Two seasons later, he finished third in the NFL with a 26.7-yard kickoff return average, the highest for a Cardinal since legend Terry Metcalf in 1975.

Jenkins struggled with hanging onto the ball in training camp this spring, symptoms of being away from the game too long. He spent extra time catching balls after practice and now says rust from his two-year hiatus is starting to drop off.

"You can play catch all day but if you're not actually running routes, competing against another DB and doing things of that nature, you tend lose your focus and stop looking the ball all the way in," Jenkins explained. "You have to go back to the basics and do the little things. I'm getting the feel of running routes again and the feel of competing again. It was a lack of concentration and getting back in the groove after being out of organized ball for two years.

"The thing is, as a player, you try to make it hard for the coaches. That includes getting back out there. You have to make it hard for the coaches to take you out."


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