Snap decisions

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:09 AM ET

For 13 years, Calgary Stampeders centre Jamie Crysdale was like that rusty old car you had in high school.

When it worked, you never really thought much about it.

When it broke down and left you thumbing rides, oh how you missed that precious, beautiful, can't-live-without-it set of wheels.

For 210 regular-season CFL games, Crysdale trotted onto the field, performed his important yet overlooked role and went home.

Now everyone is watching Godfrey Ellis, the laid-back Bahamian expected to replace him.

Apparently, that transition won't be as smooth as first expected for the 24-year-old, benched partway through last night's 57-13 pre-season loss against the B.C. Lions played in a steady drizzle.

"It was a slow start for me and the ball was a little slick in the beginning," said Ellis, who botched two snaps in the first quarter. "I had a bad snap and coach pulled me, gave me some time to think about it and wonder whether I'd still have my job.

"But I came back in the second half and played pretty strong. I couldn't think about it anymore. I had to put it behind me."

Crysdale was the team's longest-serving player until walking away from the game late last season. His ironman standard over that time was a perfect example of a player performing without a hitch, flying under the radar the whole time because of it.

After reaggravating an old knee injury part-way through last season, Crysdale was cooly replaced by Ellis, surprising everyone with his competence as Crysdale's fill-in for eight games and the West semifinal loss to Edmonton.

Rarely did Ellis bobble a snap, fitting right into the revamped offence like he'd always played the position.

The rise of Ellis was supposed to be one less headache for Stampeders head coach Tom Higgins and GM Jim Barker.

No problem, or so they thought.

Yet the CFL pre-season is for ironing out the kinks and Stampeders brass has certainly found some at centre.

Ellis's first miscue was with quarterback Henry Burris under centre on the team's initial offensive play and minutes later with the pivot working out of the shotgun.

The wonky outing was a followup to an even more shoddy performance by Ellis last Friday night in Vancouver. On that steamy, sweaty night in B.C. Place Stadium, Ellis misfired a half-dozen snaps either due to wet gloves, a taped hand or nervousness, depending on who you ask.

Last night, the coaches had seen enough, sending in 2005 draft pick John Comiskey, who operated flawlessly until Ellis returned in the second half.

Kyler Jukes also took some snaps.

"I've been taking reps at centre (in camp) and they called on me so I had to step up," Comiskey said.

"They clearly have indicated that I'm the sixth man and basically if somebody needs me to step in, I step in. Right now we're trying to establish some cohesiveness and that's what pre-season is all about."

Last night Higgins referred to the problems at centre as "challenges."

Putting Ellis back into the game is proof the team's brain trust will exercise patience with the young talent, challenges and all.


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