Playoff loss still stings

Stamps' Joffrey Reynolds, during training camp at McMahon. (SUN/Darren Makowicuk)

Stamps' Joffrey Reynolds, during training camp at McMahon. (SUN/Darren Makowicuk)

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:14 AM ET

Like bits of Green and Gold confetti, the Calgary Stampeders' Grey Cup dream last season was close enough to touch but too elusive to grab.

A pair of second-half fumbles by running back Joffrey Reynolds in the CFL West semifinal -- once with an eight-point lead and again with the contest tied -- left a bitter gang of Stampeders watching the championship game on TV.

The Edmonton Eskimos, who shocked Reynolds and the Stampeders in that fateful playoff contest right at McMahon Stadium, made off with the hardware.

The moment was particularly bitter for Reynolds, who felt his miscues cost his club a shot at a title, something that had eluded him all through high school and college.

"For sure, especially that night and the next couple of weeks," the Texan recalled.

"When you lose out in the playoffs, you go home and nobody wants to go home. Then to see Edmonton win the whole thing on TV, the green confetti is flying everywhere, you kind of get sick all over again.

"We definitely had our chance. After all that goes away and you start training for the next season, it's motivational to know that you can't make mistakes like I did. We had a couple of other turnovers that game, too. As a team, you can't make mistakes in that type of game and for me, that was a real good learning process in terms of playing a game of that magnitude. You have to be at your best at all times.

"It was a big stage for me to be on, the biggest in a long time.

"At first you kind of get caught up in it, thinking 'If I hadn't fumbled those two times, we would have won.' But if you look at the NFL or NBA playoffs, a lot of good players make mistakes too, fumble or turn the ball over. It's just part of playing the games and that's the one thing I've learned looking back at it."

Not only does Reynolds feel he's learned from frittering away a Grey Cup ticket, head coach Tom Higgins is also convinced his star tailback will profit from his miserable night six months ago.

"I think he'll respond very favourably," Higgins said.

"Since Joffrey's come back, he has been watching film and is very conscientious. I'd be very disappointed if he put as many balls on the ground as he did last year.

"You win and lose as a team. He wasn't the only reason we didn't win in the playoff game but I do know he is very much looking forward to getting back on the field and having a great year. The bottom line is he knows it's all about winning but when he gets his hands on the ball, it's about gaining yards."

Reynolds' sensational season in 2005, second in the league with 1,437 yards and a 5.8-yard average, leads to an obvious question. If the muscle-bound Houston product stays healthy, could Willie Burden's 31-year-old team-record season of 1,896 yards finally fall?

"I just think about being the best player I can be, game-in and game-out," shrugs Reynolds, who had been hobbled by a minor knee injury in '05.

"It's a long season -- 18 games -- and if you get ahead of yourself as far as thinking about how many yards other players ran for in the past, then you forget about what's happening now. In Week 15 or 16, then I'll know if that type of thing is reachable, but right now I can't think about those things.

"If I run for 1,800 yards and we're still sittin' at home in November, then what difference does it make?"

ALIVE AND KICKING: Linebacker George White was shagging punts in the endzone yesterday looking surprisingly healthy after suffering a serious Achilles tendon injury in the off-season.

While White could miss as much as the first half of the season, he hopes to return sooner.

"I'm alive and kicking, just biding my time until I can get back on the field for good," White said.

"It's a day-to-day thing. It feels real good but it's the most serious injury of my career."

BAND-AID SOLUTIONS: The Stamps suffered a raft of minor injuries yesterday, although one wound could be more serious. Import DB Jermaine Chatman, who wrenched his left knee, watched the afternoon session while wearing a knee brace. He is expected to have an MRI today. Other minor nicks were to WR Elijah Thurmon (hamstring), SB Jeremaine Copeland (ham), R Brett Ralph (ham), WR Ziehl Kavanaugh (ham), RB Tony Stallings (ham), RB David Allen (Achilles).

EXTRA POINTS: Six guest coaches are in camp, including legendary Stampeders receiver Tom Forzani, whose No. 22 is retired, and former CFL kicker Terry Baker. Baker began working with the Stampeders' young kickers last season ... DB Coby Rhinehart missed yesterday's morning workout while attending his graduation from Southern Methodist ... P Burke Dales lost 28 lbs., in the off-season, thanks to an organic diet ... Placekicker Sandro DeAngelis was married two weeks ago and spent his honeymoon in Las Vegas ... A few players have slipped into new numbers since last season: DB Jermaine Chatman, 2 (formerly 41); DB Coby Rhinehart, 3 (28); S Wes Lysack, 4 (3); Dales, 16 (14); and RB Tony Stallings 27 (34) ... R Terrence Wilkins and DB Shane Walton did not report to camp and have been suspended.


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