Playing Grace?

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:03 AM ET

John Grace received a vision of what life would be like if he wasn't part of the Calgary Stampeders roster.

He didn't like it much.

The 2005 CFL's most outstanding defensive player sat out the win over the Montreal Alouettes last Saturday at McMahon with a nagging groin injury but was more hurt emotionally than physically.

"Driving up to the stadium, I sat in my car for the longest time," Grace said. "I was like, 'Man, I ain't playing today.'

"I didn't want to go in the locker-room because I didn't want to be standing around the guys with that terrible mindset. These guys were getting ready to go to battle."

In a move that was part shaking up the roster and part resting a veteran player, Grace was a late scratch, giving way to second-year Stampeder Cornelius Anthony.

If this were the playoffs, Grace could have suited up. He understood where the coaches were coming from by giving him the hook because he wasn't 100% healthy.

"If your leg or arm ain't broken, if nothing is terribly wrong, you could play with injuries," Grace said. "We have the luxury here of not having to play with injuries. We have guys who can step in when you are nicked up."

Grace returned to practice yesterday with the team and was splitting reps with Anthony once again. Grace declared himself ready to face the Alouettes in Thursday's rematch in Montreal but isn't 100% certain he will make the trip.

Last week, the 29-year-old watched the first half from the sidelines before retreating to the video office to get away from the action.

"It's tough as a player to stand there and watch the guys battle," Grace said. "I wished the team was on the road the week where I can't play. At least I wouldn't have my blood boiling on the sidelines and not being able to do anything about it."

Grace finished last season with 75 tackles (sixth in the league), eight sacks and two interceptions.

There is an argument his performance is slipping this season as compared with last year but Grace argues he is better than before. Through eight games, he has four sacks, 34 tackles but no interceptions.

"If you look at it statistcally, I'm well ahead of where I was last year," Grace said. "At this point of the season last year, I only had one sack.

"The last nine were big for me. I'm looking forward to getting into this back nine."

Asked if the coaches have a tough choice this week deciding the roster, Grace replied: "I don't really know what makes their decisions tougher.

"As a player, I can only go out there and play. I just have to go out and make plays. As for who gets to play and who doesn't, it's out of my control. We can only wait and let the coaches tell us we could play."


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