Team rallies around Howell

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:16 AM ET

The joy of yesterday's Stampeders victory was visible on the face of every player in the Calgary locker-room.

Markus Howell's also showed a huge sense of relief.

A loss would have made Howell's Labour Day Classic an absolute disaster and left the return specialist feeling extremely guilty.

A couple of fumbles directly led to 10 points by the Edmonton Eskimos in the game's opening half.

It's understandable how much he appreciated his team erasing that half-time deficit en route to yesterday's 35-24 victory at McMahon Stadium.

"That's how I addressed the team after the game. I was in the middle of the breakdown and I told them, 'I had a rough one today, and I appreciate you guys as teammates,' " Howell said. "When you pull out games like this and lose a turnover battle, good things will happen for a team."

It's a tribute to the faith of head coach Tom Higgins.

Most fans would have expected Howell's game to be over when he put the second ball on the turf. He also went to the sidelines -- after a long spell on the ground -- with a gimpy shoulder.

But he was sent back out for each subsequent return.

"The coaches, they said as soon as it happened -- both of them were pretty big licks, and I hurt my shoulder a bit on the second one -- 'Let me know when you're ready, and you can get back out there,' " Howell said. "I took some T-3s, went back out there and took some more big licks."

He insists he didn't lose confidence in himself.

"You want the ball," Howell said. "Every time I go back there, they say, '88 out the gate,' so when I started trotting out there and heard '88 out the gate,' I knew if I get a seam, I'm gonna hit it.

"You want to get out there and catch the next one."

And having teammates keep you upbeat doesn't hurt.

"He was out there trying to make plays," said Ryan Thelwell. "He wasn't out there trying to make mistakes. I know he's good for two (touchdown returns) next game."


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