Thelwell's numbers don't tell story

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:27 AM ET

The numbers game is keeping Ryan Thelwell from being a starter and his numbers have diminished accordingly.

But that hasn't kept the veteran Calgary Stampeders receiver from being a clutch performer this season.

Although the 35-year-old Canadian posted career lows in all offensive categories, an astonishing 78% of his catches were for first downs or touchdowns.

Overall, this was a good season for Thelwell, even if he is only being used in five-receiver sets.

"So much is based on numbers," Thelwell said. "People may look at my stats and say I only had 20 catches or so.

"Sometimes you need to look at opportunities.

"My opportunities have gone down, but I'm not complaining.

"Look at our record.

"We're doing something right. The coaches know what they are doing.

"It's not just because of me, but they see something they like for me and they've done a good job of changing it up every week."

It seems every time Thelwell trots onto the field, the Stamps are in second and long and need a good chunk of yardage.

In his 23 grabs for 397 yards, 15 of them extended drives and three ended up in the endzone.

His clutch play was never more evident than in an Aug. 7 win at Saskatchewan. He had a first quarter grab on second-and-medium, then helped kill the clock in the final minute on second-and-long.

"He's been important for us in so many different ways, so we're always going to find ways to allow him to make plays," said quarterback Henry Burris.

"On every occasion, Ryan has proved he is a reliable guy. He makes great catches and has great hands, but he can be dangerous with the ball in his hands.

"This year, we needed him in big situations and he came through. The close game we lost in Edmonton, he came in late in the game and got us a big catch, racing 30 yards upfield (to set up a go-ahead touchdown).

"He's not one to grumble about the situation. He comes in and is the consummate professional."

Thelwell didn't complain when a surplus of receivers meant he sat out Week 3 against the Montreal Alouettes as a healthy scratch.

It was the same depth that means he is no longer a starter.

But expect Thelwell to play his role Saturday in the West final against his former team, the B.C. Lions.

Although he's 35 and in his eighth CFL season, Thelwell has no plans on making this playoff run his swan song.

"I haven't thought about it. If I was out there and guys were jamming me up and I couldn't run with the guys, then I probably would be retiring," said Thelwell, who admits it would be especially nice to beat the Lions.

"Physically, I feel better than when I was 30. Usually by this time, my back is sore and I don't want to get out of bed. I don't feel that way at all right now. I'm excited about coming here every day."


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