'All business' suits 'em fine

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:13 AM ET

Day 1 of the Calgary Stampeders rookie camp and already John Hufnagel is putting his stamp on the team.

No, the GM/head coach didn't chew out his charges from the moment they hit the turf. He didn't fire them up with a rah-rah, win-one-for-the-Gipper type speech.

And he certainly didn't come down as a heavy.

But before main training camp has even begun -- that starts Sunday -- it's obvious Hufnagel has set a new tone around McMahon Stadium.

"You can definitely feel a direct approach to taking care of things," quarterback Henry Burris said after taking part in the morning session with the rookies. "Off the field, we can all have a good time laughing and joking with each other, but on the field, it's all about discipline, doing your job, taking care of your responsibilities, being a man and being a professional, and that's something you respect about him.

"He's a man who is (about) a time and place for everything, you can definitely see that. When we're in the office, he'll joke around with you, but when it's time to hit meetings and get on the field, he expects 100 percent."

You don't need to watch practice for long to see Hufnagel is a man with presence.

His words are direct and forthright. A no-nonsense approach permeates from everything he does. Perfect for this team that's fallen short, well short, of expectations the past couple of seasons.

Now, departed head coach Tom Higgins is a wonderful person and a good football mind. He may go down in history as one of the nicest coaches in Calgary sporting history. Unfortunately, his Ned Flanders-like persona just didn't jive with the Stamps.

The past couple of seasons have ended not so much because the Stampeders didn't have the talent, but more because they beat themselves.

"There was definitely something needed just to get us over the hump," Burris said, careful not to step on any graves.

"The undisciplined plays we made in the past, whether it was turnovers or, more notably, penalties last year, killed us in the end.

"We needed that focus or that new sense of direction and leadership to install that focus and allow us to not make those same mistakes again."

It's hard to say whether the Stamps locker-room last season was a house divided, but there were certainly no outward signs of major problems.

Obvious, though, was that bit of disarray. Something was missing, and a solid theory is the lacking element was leadership at the top.

With Hufnagel, it's obvious the buck stops with him.

"I've gotten to talk to Huf a little bit and I like his attitude," said veteran receiver Nik Lewis.

"I like the way we're headed as a team, what he's putting around us, bringing in more playmakers on defence and offence."

For his part, Hufnagel hasn't professed to be the answer to all the Stampeders' problems. He's not saying he had to make a statement, change the culture.

No, Hufnagel is just doing the job his way.

"I don't know what the scenario was in the past. I know what the terms were when I accepted the job and I'm pleased the way things are going," he said.

"I'm pleased the players have that trust in me and they realize I have a lot of great people, a great staff, but the final decision and determination of their status is mine.

"At least they know who is held accountable for the decisions."

Exactly what this team needs.


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