Markus Howell enjoys getting his hands on the pigskin but not the one he handled near the end of yesterday's practice.
The Calgary Stampeders receiver was the target of an annual pork prank when he took a handoff from QB Henry Burris, only to realize while dashing out of the backfield he was cradling a real pig's head instead of a football.
He quickly pitched the sow to the sidelines and hopes to get a feel for the other pigskin Sunday.
"Yeah, the real pigskin," Howell laughed afterward, happily reporting he was wearing gloves.
"Of course, it surprised me. I thought it was a football. Seven years in the league and I didn't think there was any way they could get me. They got (Jeremaine) Copeland last year and they said they wanted to get a veteran who had a respectable year."
Howell said the team gag is an indication the Stampeders are ready to bring home the bacon in the West semifinal against the visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders.
"In the race for first place against B.C., you could kind of feel the tension in the locker-room," Howell said.
"This week we're loose and it's business as usual."
The 35,650-seat McMahon Stadium is inching toward a sellout. Only 235 tickets remain, in addition to those distributed through Safeway and SportChek.