Games not won on reputation

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:53 AM ET

The Calgary Stampeders returned to their locker-room yesterday to find a brand spankin' new pair of sunglasses in each stall.

It's the kind of freebee that doesn't fall in your lap every day in the CFL, made clear by the players' reactions.

Some wore the new specs into team meetings, the post-practice cold tub or the trainer's room. One player even headed for the showers sporting the latest in free eyewear.

We already know the confident Stampeders entered camp thinking their future was so bright they needed sunglasses but is it still true after a Saturday's dejecting loss in Edmonton?

Defensive end Rahim Abdullah recognizes the sensation from his sunny days with the Eskimos. In 2002, that squad knew it was good and advanced to the Grey Cup, only to lose. The following season, brimming with the same unbridled confidence, Abdullah and his Green and Gold brethren walked away with Grey Cup rings.

"When I was in Edmonton and we experienced this here late last year, when we went on the field we expected to win every game," the second-year Stampeder said.

"We knew we were going to be the best team in the division and that's how it felt here at the end of last season. We knew we were going to win, we knew our defence would go out and shut guys down and we knew our offence would go out and put up points.

"But talk never amounts to anything unless you can back it up and I think this is a better team than last year. We can talk and say, 'We're going to win the Grey Cup' but if we can't back it up on the field, that means nothing."

The Stampeders certainly were unable to back up their bravado Saturday in Edmonton, falling to the Eskimos and into a four-way tie for first place in the CFL West. The scenario has made for a frustrated bunch.

"How the heck can you NOT be?" wondered Sheldon Napastuk, whose Stamps host the winless Hamilton Tiger-Cats tomorrow night.

"It's really frustrating to play better than we did the week before and walk away with a loss to Edmonton."

With the apparent finger-pointing in the heat of the moment at Commonwealth Stadium, Stamps linebacker John Grace says it's time for introspection if the team hopes to reach its potential. When the offence fails to light up the scoreboard, the defence has to react.

"When the offence struggles, as a defence we have to step it up," Grace said.

"We let Edmonton win the last game. Everybody's focused and upbeat and we feel we're going to accomplish something big this year, we just have to do it on the field and not just talk about it.

"Right now we're disappointed in ourselves because it's our job to go out and make big plays and make things happen.


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