Wild West says Grace

Stampeders linebacker John Grace hopes to keep Edmonton quarterbacks under wraps once again this...

Stampeders linebacker John Grace hopes to keep Edmonton quarterbacks under wraps once again this Sunday when Calgary hosts the Eskimos in the Western Semifinal playoff matchup. (Calgary Sun File Photo)

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

Calgary Stampeders linebacker John Grace is going to the 2005 Grey Cup.

While the team is two playoff wins away from a berth in the CFL championship game, the linebacker will be in Vancouver as the West Division nominee for defensive player-of-the-year honours.

Grace is a finalist along with East nominee Michael Fletcher, a linebacker with the Toronto Argonauts.

Grace was the West candidate last season, losing to Montreal's Anwar Stewart.

"I think I was more consistent this season from the fact that I didn't make as many errors," said Grace, acquired from Ottawa in a trade prior to last season, his first under defensive co-ordinator Denny Creehan.

"I understood the defence much more this year and I understood what coach was asking of me. I didn't have that same learning curve the first five games, just running around not knowing what was asked of me or what was needed of me.

"In that aspect, I was more consistent this year because I didn't make as many errors. And then our philosophy kind of changed, we went to another philosophy on defence, added a few new wrinkles we didn't have before and my role kind of changed a little bit and I was able to adapt to that."

Grace is a strong candidate to win the award after collecting 76 tackles (sixth in the CFL) eight QB sacks, three fumble recoveries and two interceptions as part of a dominant front seven.

"I just come out and try to play to the best of my abilities and that's about it," said Grace, who re-signed with the club as a free agent prior to this season. "Maybe this year my role was to take on blocks and last year my role was to make tackles, so you can't necessarily say I played better because I had better numbers last year.

"Sometimes, it's the grunt guys and sometimes it's the guys who makes the plays ... This year there were guys keying on me a little bit more, doing some different things to try to take me away and coach said, 'OK, if that's what they're going to do, we're going to use that to our advantage.' So we adapted."

All player-of-the-year hardware will be presented at the Rogers CFL Player Awards Nov. 24 in Vancouver.

POINTS AFTER: Import RB Tony Stallings is expected to fill the vacancy left by David Allen, who left the club Monday after signing as a free agent with the St. Louis Rams.


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