Use your head, says Huf

Stamps coach John Hufnagel hopes his team starts to grasp the importance of discipline soon. (Sun...

Stamps coach John Hufnagel hopes his team starts to grasp the importance of discipline soon. (Sun Media/Lyle Aspinall)

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

Dwight Anderson might be playing the best football of his CFL career.

It doesn't even guarantee him a spot in the starting lineup.

If his lack of discipline continues, the Calgary Stampeders cornerback could find himself sitting.

"He's playing really good football for us right now, but that doesn't allow him to have the ability not to have poise during the game and play by the rules," Stampeders coach John Hufnagel said yesterday, less than 14 hours after his team pulled off a 31-23 victory over the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers at McMahon Stadium.

"One player doesn't make or break the strength of your team, but a discipline problem can."

It wasn't a shoving match with a teammate that got Hufnagel riled up and in Anderson's face on the sidelines Saturday night. It was an equipment issue.

Anderson took the field with his helmet in his hands instead of on his head.

Some would suggest his head wasn't screwed on straight at the time.

"That was like a mental bust," admitted the energetic defensive back in the locker-room afterward.

The 10-yard objectionable conduct penalty just added to the Stamps' flag problems on the evening as they let a game that should have been nailed down become a nailbiter.

It prompted a steamed Hufnagel to offer heated words of advice when Anderson scrambled off the field as the team punted over again because of a previous penalty.

"Basically, he said, 'Keep your goddamn helmet on!' " Anderson said, doing his best Hufnagel impression.

"We can't keep killing ourselves with the penalties. One of these games, it's really gonna hurt us bad."

That could have been the case Saturday, but despite 11 penalties for 134 yards against, the Stamps hung on to crawl back to 3-3 on the young season.

Hufnagel hopes his team starts to grasp the importance of discipline.

Scraps between teammates -- Anderson and Davonzo Tate scuffled recently in a game, and booters Sandro DeAngelis and Burke Dales came to blows during a practice days later -- are one thing. When the lack of control spills over onto the playing field and draws flags, bad things happen.

"Frustrating is one word you could use," Hufnagel said. "But that doesn't mean we're going to give up on the message, and it does not mean we will not improve in the future. We've just got to keep plugging away and start learning from our carelessness.

"It's carelessness -- letting our emotions overwhelm us, losing our poise and forgetting about the things that we need to attend to on the football field."

He hasn't given Anderson a final warning -- at least not one he'll admit to publicly -- but Hufnagel won't rule out making a personnel change if he feels it's necessary.

"I made unpopular decisions before in the same area," Hufnagel said. "When I believe that enough is enough, I will make a decision that the player won't like to hear."

A pass-interference call against Anderson in the endzone that led to a touchdown Saturday was balanced by a brilliant breakup he made behind the goal-line later. But the helmet bungle illustrates the struggle Hufnagel has had keeping the defender's mind in control on the field.

"That's keeping your poise. DA is a very emotional player. He plays that way -- it's very obvious," Hufnagel said.

"He's been in my office a few times discussing the problem. And hopefully finding the solution.

"It's an ongoing challenge."


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