McNeil preaches patience

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

Calgary Stampeders players have never enjoyed voting privileges to elect their head coach.

But just for the record, Jay McNeil is placing his 'X' beside Tom Higgins' name to return for the 2007 CFL campaign. And as this year's President's Ring recipient, McNeil's opinion should carry weight.

"I think Tom is a great coach and I'd be disappointed if he's not here next year," McNeil said after being announced as the President's Ring winner for the second consecutive season.

While casting a vote of confidence for Higgins, McNeil said some tweaking of the roster is inevitable.

The Stamps (10-8) finished second in the CFL West for the second straight season, losing the semifinal just as they did last year.

"I understand where people are coming from because ... the Western (semifinal) was the same song and dance we've done all year long when we've lost," McNeil said.

"I wish I could say what the problem is but you always want to try to do something to make the team better. Inevitably comes changes and that's part of the business.

"Expectations were high and I think (the fans) are disappointed but there's no group more disappointed than the guys in our locker-room. We had high expectations as well but when you put it in perspective, when you look at where we were two years ago, we've sure come a long way. As long as we keep showing a commitment to getting better, I'd like the fans to just stay patient."

The President's Ring is bestowed annually to the Stamps player judged by his teammates as having exceptional leadership skills on and off the field.

The 36-year-old guard, who was also voted a CFL all-star for the third time, expects to return next season for his 14th year in Red and White after signing a three-year deal last spring.

"I'm still enjoying playing, I'm healthy and we've got some business to take care of here, so I'm looking forward to coming back," said McNeil, adding the President's Ring is special but pales to his championship jewelry from 1998 and 2001.

"The Grey Cup is why we play, so to get a Grey Cup ring is first and foremost but this ranks right up there and sure means a lot coming from your teammates."

The award was established in 1967 and McNeil is just the third player to win in back-to-back years.

McNeil will be honoured at the President's Ring Award dinner next spring.

EXTRA POINTS:

Stamps kick returner Markus Howell was named CFL special teams player of the week following his performance in the team's West Division loss to Saskatchewan last week. Two Roughriders, running back Kenton Keith and defensive back Eddie Davis, also earned nods from the game while Eric England of the Toronto Argonauts earned lineman of the week honours ... Police say no criminal charges will be filed against Montreal Alouettes Alain Kashama and Mark Estelle. The players were arrested Monday night after an altercation with police when their car was pulled over because of a traffic violation.


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