No stressing Tucker factor

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:15 AM ET

Of all the things said this Labour Day, the one you won't hear at McMahon Stadium will be 'Ricky Ray complete to Jason Tucker.'

And for that, the Calgary Stampeders defence can be thankful.

No one with the Stamps was glad to see the Edmonton Eskimos receiver suffer three broken vertebrae in his neck earlier this season.

But there isn't anybody on that defence wishing No. 83 would magically get healthy and suit up Monday when the Eskimos visit the Stamps for the Labour Day Classic (2 p.m., TSN).

In 17 career games versus the Stampeders, Tucker has amassed 78 receptions, 1,388 yards and 13 touchdowns.

"Without him, it changes a lot of things we do defensively because we don't have to worry about him," said Stamps safety Wes Lysack.

"In my opinion, he's one the best players in the league and I have the utmost respect for him.

"It's unfortunate he got hurt and I hope he can come back. Not even worrying about football, I just hope he can live a good life."

If anyone had ill will toward Tucker as a player, it would be Lysack and fellow defensive back Calvin Bannister.

In Week 2 this season, Tucker made the grab of the year to beat the Stamps 34-31 at Commonwealth Stadium.

On a corner route that was over his left shoulder, Tucker was faced the other way, so he turned and reached out with one hand to pull in the ball before Lysack hit him in the endzone.

At least Lysack has been able to put it behind him. He heads into the Labour Day game after capping last Friday's 36-29 win over the B.C. Lions with a last-second interception.

Still, the Tucker catch is being played on every CFL highlight-reel right now.

"That's the life of a DB," Lysack said. "That ball was thrown to the far corner of the field. There aren't too many safeties who could have been there to begin with. It doesn't bother me one bit.

"If I was thinking about the games I've already played, I would be sitting around doing nothing because I've played too many of them."

You could forgive Stampeders defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones if he wanted to breathe a sigh of relief, with Tucker out.

Tucker had his three best regular-season performances against the Montreal Alouettes when Jones was defensive co-ordinator there.

Jones also had to watch as Tucker had seven grabs for 132 yards and two touchdowns during the 2003 Grey Cup when he was named the game MVP.

But as most CFL fans would attest, Jones thinks it's a shame Tucker may be done for good due to the injury.

"It's a shame he had to get hurt," Jones said. "He is one of the stars in the league. It helps our brand when we have guys like him. It's sad to see him go out that way."

Although Bannister was one of the defensive backs burned by Tucker and Ray in the first meeting, the speedy Stampeder isn't going to change his style of play.

Most of the time Bannister gives up big plays is because he is taking chances on trying for turnovers. So with Labour Day promising to be an aerial show, Bannister is excited for chances at interceptions.

"Whenever they give you a chance to make plays, or an opportunity to change the game, I enjoy it," Bannister said.

"I will continue to do what my coaches tell me and as long as they still tell me to be aggressive and be the player I am, I will continue to do that."

IAN.BUSBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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