When in Rome ...

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

Three months ago, Craig Carr couldn't have pictured himself suiting up in a Labour Day Classic.

Carr was too busy trying to understand the playbook of the Rome Gladiatori, which was, of course, written in Italian.

When CFL opportunities dried up this February, the 30-year-old running back signed on to play in NFL Italy, a minor-pro league with nine teams in the top loop.

So aside from the soccer stadium at which the team played, Carr got to see the Colosseum, the Pantheon, St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican, as well as Italian linebackers.

"It was an amazing experience," said the recently signed Calgary Stampeder. "I got to see Europe, make a little money and play ball.

"How many people can say they got to see Europe for free? It was amazing. It's weird how things happen."

Carr was signed this week by the Stampeders as an emergency replacement for fullback Scott Deibert, who is out with a knee injury.

Calgary was beating the bushes for a Canadian and Carr was available. The University of Manitoba Bisons product was a draft pick of the Edmonton Eskimos in 2000 and has played in two Labour Day Classics. The crowd today at McMahon Stadium (1 p.m.) will be a little larger than in Italy where the Gladiatori would take over a soccer field to mostly empty stands.

"They would get anywhere from 500 to 2,000 fans," Carr said. "If there was a soccer game, the stadium would be sold out."

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HANK SMILING: Quarterback Henry Burris is glad to have Jamie Crysdale back snapping him the football after the veteran missed four games with a knee injury.

"To get a guy like Jamie back, he's our cornerstone, our leader," Burris said.

"He's been in the league like 80 years. I think he played with Normie Kwong."

Burris said rookie Godfrey Ellis did an admirable job in Crysdale's place but the entire line is improved by having the ironman back.

"He knows all the calls and all the checks," Burris said. "Having him there keeps everyone relaxed."

Ellis will stay in the lineup and be used as a blocking fullback in short-yardage situations, taking the job Tyler Lynem performed the past few games.

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FILM STUDY: The only way Ben Kelly knows Eskimos receviers Jason Tucker, Derrell Mitchell and Trevor Gaylor is on game film. And the starting Stamps defensive back will likely see all three at different points today.

Facing Ricky Ray and his quality group of receivers isn't easy at any point but Kelly is returning from a hamstring injury and has never faced any Eskimos one-on-one.

"You don't see how strong he is until you line up against him face-to-face," Kelly said. "With the film, you can understand where the routes are going but not man-to-man. You won't figure out how good someone is until you match up against them. And we'll get to know each other quite a bit this week."

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REVENGE ON MIND?: Stamps head coach Tom Higgins won't come out and say it but beating his former team would be sweet revenge.

Higgins has been telling his team he isn't looking for revenge against his old team.

But Henry Burris isn't buying it.

"We know in the back of his mind, he would love to get this victory. The same goes for Rahim Abdullah, Randy Chevrier and Brett Ralph. The most important thing is to get the victory because we want to be in second place."


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