Stampeders in good hands

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

Once the Calgary Stampeders sort out exactly who will catch passes for them this season, they will arguably have one of the best receiving corps in the CFL.

Predicting which players will make up that group is risky business, even for a fourth-year player such as Nik Lewis.

The usually boastful Lewis is taking a more sombre tone heading into Stampeders training camp, realizing there is enough talent to make even a three-time 1,000-yard receiver expendable.

One would think the Stamps will field Ryan Thelwell, Marc Boerigter, Jeremaine Copeland, Ken-Yon Rambo and Lewis as their main receivers.

But Lewis isn't taking anything for granted, especially with a half-dozen other prospects in the mix, including veteran Canadians Markus Howell and Brett Ralph.

"I don't know who is going to be here," said Lewis. "We have five great receivers and we'll see what the rookies can bring.

"Other than that, I can't tell you who is going to be here. I may not be here. I take this as I have to work hard."

After losing to Saskatchewan in the playoffs last year, the Stamps decided an attitude change was in order in addition to personnel moves.

Gone are the post-touchdown antics and trash-talking of opponents. In came veteran receivers Thelwell and Boerigter -- both important free-agent signings.

Copeland understands the message and decided it was time to grow up. He accepted a pay cut in anticipation of a lesser role, cut his cornrows, signed up for more player appearances and refocused his workout regime.

The 30-year-old knows his spot isn't secure so he knocked off 10 lb. in fat and then put that back on in muscle to get more athletic.

In his mind, Copeland hopes to emulate Winnipeg Blue Bombers star Milt Stegall, who was once the king of dancing in the CFL but became one of the most respected receivers in the loop.

"I dropped the attitude a bit," Copeland said. "I'm getting a little bit older. I want to be the leader they are looking for.

"They want me to be the Milt Stegall of Calgary and, truthfully, I would like to do that. I've been preparing to rise to that challenge. I want to make the coaches smile because I'm back on this squad."

With George Cortez taking over as offensive co-ordinator from Steve Buratto and bringing in a new system, no receiver is set in a specific position at the moment.

The free-flowing style may not change this year because Cortez likes to move players around and keep defences off-balance.

Boerigter is the perfect guy for that philosophy, being that he can play inside or outside but still turn an opponent upside down.

"This is interesting to see how roles shake out," Boerigter said. "This is an eclectic group, not just because of the interesting characters.

"There are speed guys, big, physical guys and ones that can make things happen after the catch. We will mix it up to see what we can do."

The two who surely won't get cut are Boerigter and Thelwell, who is a key Canadian ratio-breaker.

LIONS QB CLOSE TO DEAL

The B.C. Lions hope to have quarterback Dave Dickenson signed to a contract extension by early next week and a deal could be announced as early as today.

He is entering the final year of a contract that pays him $400,000 a season and he could sign for three years.


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