Tinker fella

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:56 AM ET

The Calgary Stampeders were in need of an overhaul a year ago.

New ownership and a revised coaching staff rolled up its collective sleeves before ripping out the pistons, crankshaft and spark plugs.

Things got a little messy as half the roster was replaced but, before the end of the CFL season, the team was running smoothly again, purring right into its first playoff appearance since 2001.

This year, head coach Tom Higgins gladly reports, the unit just needs a full tank of gas and a fresh coat of wax before heading out onto the road again.

"What makes us feel pretty good going into camp this year is we had so many questions a year ago," Higgins said yesterday as the team prepares for Sunday's start of a gruelling three-week training camp.

"Now we don't have as many questions, we have answers."

The Stamps likely will see the most upgrades among the defensive backs. The offence also could use a game-breaking wide receiver and will be deeper at quarterback, while Canadian talent and special teams will be improved.

Higgins and GM Jim Barker have always said the team is constantly looking to upgrade at every position. Yet after a successful 11-7 season in 2005, Stamps brass is cautious about upsetting the chemistry they've developed for the sake of negligible improvements.

"A guy might be more talented (than someone on the roster) but he might not have the proper attitude to make it work, so attitude can become more important," Higgins said.

"That's all part of the evaluation process, so we've got to be careful. We've created an environment in the locker-room that's outstanding. We don't want to jeopardize what has been created.

"Still, you've got to be ready to make what changes are necessary. We need to let the competition unfold and see what happens."

Higgins likens the training camp competitions between rookies and veterans to a boxing match.

Rarely can a vet lose his job on the judges' scorecards.

"It's like the heavyweight champ -- he's got to be knocked out and, sometimes, that's not a bad thing," Higgins suggested.

Physicals are tomorrow while full camp opens at 8 a.m. Sunday at McMahon. The Stamps open the pre-season June 2 in Vancouver.


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