Mr. Versatile plays waiting game

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

You want to talk versatile?

Given the chance, you almost think Keon Raymond figures he could play defensive line for the Calgary Stampeders.

As a nose guard.

In yesterday's practice, Raymond could be seen at linebacker, taking reps for the injured Shannon James.

He was at cornerback for a stint, in place for Brandon Browner, who was out with the flu.

Raymond can also play safety and halfback.

"I enjoy going from sideline to sideline," he said with a grin. "It doesn't matter to me where I play. I'm comfortable playing -- if it's corner, halfback, safety, linebacker.

"I just want to play ball."

Looks like he'll get that chance tomorrow night when the Stamps play host to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

James was not only wearing civvies during yesterday's practice, he was also wearing a protective boot after spraining his ankle in Wednesday's eventful session. James and head coach John Hufnagel said he'll be a game-time decision, but Raymond is at the ready to step into place for the start.

"It always comes down to the day of the game. I have to be ready, knowing what I have to do if I am called to step up and play in that position," Raymond said.

Raymond's only CFL start was at safety last season, but he was on high alert for the Grey Cup when Browner's ankle injury made him questionable for the big game. The team didn't turn to him but was prepared to do it.

"Keon was going to be our corner, and I was very comfortable with that," Hufnagel said. "He does a lot of things well and is very valuable to this football team.

"Keon, since he's been here, has been asked to learn all the positions and be ready to go at any time in those positions."

This, however, would be a heck of a test for the 5-foot-10, 190-lb. product of Middle Tennessee State.

Raymond, a second-year CFLer who'll turn 27 in November, is stepping in for the player named the team's top defender last year.

"I'm excited about the opportunity," Raymond said. "You're always excited about an opportunity to play. If I can get out and start, I can show the coaches what I can do.

"Shannon is a great football player, and if he doesn't play, we're going to miss his presence. But I'm sure I'll be able to step up and contribute."

He'll have to.

The Roughriders may be struggling and coming off a horrible performance against Edmonton, in which they gassed a 22-0 lead. But they have an offence the Stamps need be wary of.

"The Saskatchewan offence creates a lot of problems for our defence," Hufnagel said.

"They use a lot of motion. They have a lot of skill. They have a guy named (Weston) Dressler, that is playmaker. We've got to make sure, in their motion package, with Wes Cates in their lineup and Dressler and the other guys they have, we play good, sound defensive football."

James said yesterday there's no major ligament damage in his ankle, and he's hoping he'll be good to go against the Roughriders

"We're going to work it out and see," he said. "And if I'm good to go, I'm good to go."

At least he's optimistic, but until the final word comes down James is ready to play, Raymond is at the ready.

In fact, he's been prepping since his teammate went down in practice after tangling with fullback Rob Cote.

"When he was laying on ground, I was thinking, 'My number's up.' " Raymond said. "I know I have to be ready. I did some extra film study, extra meetings. I know I have to be ready.

"Better be prepared than unprepared, no matter what the call is."


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