Receiving treatment

Calgary Stampeders' Jermaine Copeland is one of many receivers getting medical attention at...

Calgary Stampeders' Jermaine Copeland is one of many receivers getting medical attention at training camp. (Calgary Sun File/Stuart Dryden)

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:00 AM ET

The group of receivers hoping to catch on with the Calgary Stampeders is getting plenty of attention during training camp.

But it's the team's medical staff spending the most time with this crop of pass catchers.

With a series of nagging injuries, the group of 16 was down to eight for yesterday's sixth workout in the last three days.

Some have spent more time in the cold tub than the huddle.

Veterans Jeremaine Copeland, Nik Lewis and Brett Ralph have been sidelined while newcomers Darnell McDonald, Andrew Ginther, Toby Atawo and Elijah Thurmon are also hobbled with assorted strains, mostly tender hamstrings.

It has made the job of evaluating the talent in camp that much more difficult for quarterbacks/receivers coach Bill Diedrick.

"When you look at the tremendous number of guys we've had out, we just need to get everybody back on the field," Diedrick said yesterday.

"If this would have happened a year ago, it would have been a real tragic situation but this year we've got a real talented group. We've still got six guys we can put out there (in receiving drills) and feel very comfortable."

Diedrick is hopeful everyone will return for workouts today or tomorrow while the injuries are jeopardizing some players' chances of sticking with the team.

Ziehl Kavanaght has already been released while Ralph, a non-import who the team was very high on at the end of last season, also needs to prove he can keep his job.

"He's got to get back on the field and show what he can do," Diedrick said.

"We were very pleased with him at the end of last year, thought he made great progress and were really looking for him to come in and have a great camp. It has been disappointing he has been out with an injury, especially with Marcus Howell playing very well."

Howell, a Winnipeg product and former Ottawa Renegade, is moving up the depth chart while Ginther, another rookie non-import, is also hurt.

The team is also looking for a deep threat to emerge, one it hopes will force more opposing teams to play more zone defences this season.

"We hope so," Diedrick said. "We went into last year thinking we'd see a real balance or quite a bit of zone and didn't. We saw a tremendous amount of man, an unusual amount.

"Now, with some deep threats, that will hopefully change a bit."

Vince Strang, an import WR, has impressed with his speed and agility but lacks size. The rest of the receiving corps has taken to calling him 'Mighty Mouse' because he lists at just 5 ft. 9 in., 165 lb.

"He's got tremendous speed, gets on the defenders very quickly and made some big plays and is getting an opportunity to get plenty of reps because of the injuries," Diedrick said.

Diedrick wants to see imports Scotty Anderson or Anthony Bright provide that threat while he suggests returnees Ken-Yon Rambo and Copeland might offer more of a challenge for defenders in 2006.

"When Copeland started camp, we could see he had a little more separation than a year ago," Diedrick said.

"When he was running, you could see he's gained a step or two and that was very good to see."

McDonald has been hobbled by a sore hamstring the last two days while coming back from a torn patella tendon from two seasons ago.

In 2004, McDonald was released by Calgary and signed with Montreal where he had surgery. He eventually caught on with Winnipeg last season where he played the last few games with the Bombers.

"I thought I've had a great camp so far before this little hamstring pull," said McDonald, who played for GM Jim Barker with the XFL in 2001 and the Stampeders in '03.

"I know that I can play and once I get back out there I should be all right.

"You look at the starters from last year and for me to crack this lineup is going to be a big task to overcome but if I can stay healthy I can definitely make this team and make an impact."


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