Who's next in line?

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:52 AM ET

When Rob Lazeo walks towards the line of scrimmage with a rookie on either side, he sometimes wants to reach out and give them a helping hand.

But off the field, the Calgary Stampeders centre gives Dimitri Tsoumpas and Jesse Newman a hard time about everything they do.

It's the 11-year veteran's job, and he'll be doing that tonight as the Stamps host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at McMahon Stadium (7 p.m., TSN).

"Sometimes, guys need an extra push, and it's our responsibility to make sure we give them that," Lazeo said about the role he and right tackle Jeff Pilon fill.

"I'm not saying they aren't doing a good job, because they are. A lot of times, being a young guy, you don't know what it takes on a daily basis to get ready and get to the championship.

"If it takes a little ribbing here and there, it's the veteran's job. It's our way of helping them out.

"It's all in fun, but there is time to be serious. If a guy needs to be talked to, told to pick it up, then it's the old guy's jobs."

The Stampeders drafted Tsoumpas and Newman with the second and third overall draft picks this spring, hoping someday they would help anchor the offensive line.

Because of injuries to both Derek Armstrong and Godfrey Ellis, the freshmen duo is starting already.

In their first game together -- a 23-19 win in Montreal -- both did a good job, although it was Newman's debut and he isn't satisfied.

"I'm pretty critical of myself," said the 25-year-old. "Some of the coaches said I had a good game, but I didn't think so. There are some things I know I have to work on. It's my first game, so I have a lot of improvement."

That outing was on the road, where Newman had to go through the rookie offensive lineman initiation of carrying around about 50 lb. worth of bocce balls so the group could play.

Tsoumpas has started since the beginning of the season, and he is happy Newman is just that ... the New Man.

"Jesse has a pretty good feel for things, and I'm getting a good feel for things," Tsoumpas said.

"Everyone is trying to work together to build a unit. We're all trying to get better and keep growing."

Newman, a starting left tackle in college at Louisiana-Lafayette, didn't have a great beginning to his CFL career. He injured his knee in rookie camp just before main camp started and was forced to sit out until the regular season started.

So this is his home stadium debut, although he did attend the season-opening win over B.C.

"It felt like I was watching my buddies play football, which is exactly what it was," Newman said. "I wasn't antsy or anything like that.

"I actually went into the stands and sat down because I was hurt back then. But it definitely sucks to watch your team play.

"I'm thankful I'm out there right now."

It's a rarity a rookie starts along the offensive line, because it takes longer for those players to develop.

To have two in on every play could be considered scary, but the Stamps have confidence in this duo. Both are athletic and physical, and it wasn't a fluke they were drafted so high.

They could form the basis of the Stamps offensive line for about a decade if they both stay healthy.

The thought of that makes Tsoumpas smile.

"It would be really cool --two guys getting drafted like that and being able to stick together on the same team," Tsoumpas said.

"We'll see what happens. This is the first year, and I'm trying to make the best of it. I'm here for the ride."


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