Stamps rookie ready to roll

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:34 AM ET

It'll take more than a "thud" to slow Cedric Thompson tonight.

For the past week and a half, the Calgary Stampeders hopeful has been playing by the rules of training camp, the equivalent of two-hand touch on the schoolyard at recess.

With the B.C. Lions set to pay a visit to McMahon Stadium for tonight's pre-season opener (7 p.m.), the rookie running back will get a chance to prove he's a handful to wrestle to the turf.

"A game opportunity, it gives me the opportunity to show that just because you thud me, I'm not going down," Thompson said. "Like I was telling a few guys on the defence, I know you can come up and thud me, but can you tackle me? It's two different things -- hitting me and actually taking me to the ground."

Thompson, an Arena League veteran who signed a free-agent deal with the Stamps in May, is battling for the backup role behind reigning CFL rushing champ Joffrey Reynolds, and also auditioning as a return-man.

The 27-year-old has shown glimpses of explosiveness on the practice field, but it'll be a different ball game tonight with a West Division rival in town and thousands of fans in the seats.

"When the lights go on, sometimes people show up and sometimes they hide," Stamps GM/head coach John Hufnagel said. "That's what you're looking for in a game."

There's a good chance the lights were on in the wee hours of the morning at the University of Calgary campus residence, where most of the rookies are bunking during training camp.

With only two exhibition tilts before the final cuts come down, the wannabe Stamps know there is limited time to make an impression on the coaching staff.

"I just have to tell myself to relax and be quiet before the storm," Thompson said.

"I have a tendency sometimes to get overwhelmed and get too pumped up before the game, so I just have to keep in my mind to just stay calm, and just go out there and do me."

Star quarterback Henry Burris has put the sleepless nights behind him, but remembers feeling restless before his pre-season debut 11 years ago in Winnipeg. Burris recalls being so amped up, he almost injured his arm throwing bullets in the warmup.

"That rotor will be running in the carriage up in their head all night. It'll be hard for them to sleep, because this is where dreams come true," he said.

The Lions are adjusting to life without sack-machine Cam Wake and running back Stefan Logan, who both inked NFL deals in the off-season.

Coach Wally Buono left several of his key returnees at home to give the freshmen a long look tonight. Just don't expect the Stamps veterans to take it easy on the newbies.

"There's just a lot of testosterone build-up in training camp," smiled slotback Jeremaine Copeland. "Not too many people get to see females -- they don't get to see their girls -- so there's just a lot backed up inside. Anger's got to come out some way."


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