Phillips set to make impact

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:43 AM ET

It goes without saying losing Mike Labinjo leaves an enormous hole on the Calgary Stampeders defensive line.

But Justin Phillips is confident he can continue to fill that void.

Labinjo is likely out for tomorrow's meeting with the Edmonton Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium (7 p.m., TSN), so this is a golden opportunity for Phillips to prove he can make an impact similar to that of his fellow Canadian defensive lineman.

"I put my time in and developed through practice and learned from guys like Mike," said Phillips, a third-year defensive end.

"I'm ready to play. I'm ready to be put in there on defence. Every time I've been put in there recently I've been doing well. I'm definitely equipped to play this defence."

When Labinjo was hurt early in Saturday's 31-23 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, it forced Phillips to play nearly every snap from the first quarter to the end.

Without an extra body, the entire Stampeders defensive line was worn out, and they allowed a total of 232 rushing yards. The Stamps will have the benefit of dressing another lineman -- likely Miguel Robede or Alain Kashama -- to keep the rotation and import ratio intact.

Despite the huge numbers allowed on defence, Stamps head coach John Hufnagel was impressed with Phillips' performance, which included his first sack this season.

"Since Justin came back (from injury two weeks ago), he played exceptionally well," Hufnagel said. "I thought he was the defensive player of the game last week. He had a good game tackling, got a sack and had a good game on special teams."

O'NEILL FEELS READY TO GO

The last time Tim O'Neill got the call to replace Rob Lazeo, the University of Calgary Dinos product had about a practice and a half to get ready.

When he suits up tomorrow in Lazeo's place at centre due to the veteran's knee injury, O'Neill will have about two practices to prepare. He feels ready with the extra half practice. Head coach John Hufnagel is comfortable going to the second-year Stampeder.

"I was pleased with Tim's play in Winnipeg," Hufnagel said. "He was physical, his mental assignments were good and I can't remember offhand when he was beat on a play."

EXTRA POINTS

Stamps WR Ryan Thelwell (hamstring) participated in full practice and is ready to go against the Esks ... Blue Bombers RB Fred Reid was named the CFL offensive player of the week for his 167 rushing yards against the Stamps. Hamilton's Markeith Knowlton is the defensive player, B.C. kicker Sean Whyte received special teams honours while Bombers DT Doug Brown is the top Canadian.


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