Raymond ready for anything

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

It's starting to feel like Grey Cup week again to Keon Raymond.

The Calgary Stampeders are getting set to face the Montreal Alouettes, star cornerback Brandon Browner is hobbled by an ankle injury and Raymond is preparing to get the call as a replacement.

Raymond is hoping the only difference is he will actually suit up to play somewhere else and the result will be exactly the same: A Stamps victory.

"I'm always ready," Raymond said about possibly taking Browner's position.

"Brandon is a tough guy. I knew from Day 1 last year that he was hurt but he was going to play.

"I was getting my work in to make sure I was ready but I knew he was going to play. He's a tough competitor. He's always fired up out there. He will perform. I just make sure if anything happens during the game that I know all the spots."

Last November, Browner suffered a badly sprained ankle in the West final win over B.C. Although he hobbled around Montreal the whole week, he contributed to the 22-14 Grey Cup win.

Raymond practised all week in that spot, but was a scratch come game time.

On Sunday, Browner turned the ankle again and took yesterday's practice off, making him a question mark for tomorrow's season-opener against the Als at McMahon Stadium.

But Raymond has grown into an important part of the Stamps defence.

Through training camp, he worked at the outside linebacker position occupied by Shannon James.

When injuries struck halfback Brandon Smith, Raymond took some reps at that spot.

After starting last season at safety, it appears the 26-year-old is a utility man -- backing up at several spots and getting plenty of action because of it.

"He's a bright individual and an outstanding young man," said head coach John Hufnagel about Raymond.

"You have to be a little careful that you don't put too much on his plate where he can't hone in one or two positions. What we try to do during camp is get him to play halfback and (strong-side linebacker) position and get him comfortable.

"If we need him elsewhere, we can work his skills at other positions."

Although he's no Browner -- a 6-foot-3, 220-lb. cornerback who shuts down top receivers -- Raymond is suddenly a valuable member of the team.

"It's nice, no question about it," Hufnagel said about having versatility. "To think, he was our starting corner in the Grey Cup had Brandon not been able to play. To be able to fit in different positions makes dealing with injuries a lot easier."

Given a choice, Raymond doesn't have a preference about where he should play.

Stepping in at corner is an easy transition because there is plenty of straight man-to-man coverage.

"It's like going back to U.S. football ... until we throw something else in there," said the Middle Tennessee State product.

"My mind is always moving. I might have to do a quick math question to get my brain working.

"It doesn't matter to me as long as I'm on the field. Beggars can't be choosers.

"As long as I'm on the field, I'm happy."


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