Thelwell now looked to for the big play

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:28 AM ET

With three more catches for 56 yards, Ryan Thelwell will equal his entire statistical output from last season.

The 36-year-old veteran could do that in the first half of tonight's Labour Day Classic against the Edmonton Eskimos.

Considering he sat out two games with a hamstring pull, getting close to breaking last year's numbers in just six starts is quite the rebirth.

"It feels good," Thelwell said. "The coaches had so much of the game plan built around Ken-Yon (Rambo, who is out with a knee injury).

"They are starting to feel comfortable with me at that spot. I'm starting to get comfortable at running more of those routes. I hope to see more of those passes. They are starting to trust that I'm going to be where I'm supposed to be."

It wasn't that long ago that Thelwell was a Labour Day star. Back in 2007, there was talk of Thelwell being a free-agent bust when he went out and had seven catches for 199 yards and two touchdowns against the Eskimos.

Until his first start this season, that was Thelwell's only 100-yard game with this team since coming over from the B.C. Lions as a free agent.

When Rambo went out in Week 4, Thelwell was moved to his wideout spot next to slotback Jeremaine Copeland.

Last season, Rambo took over from Thelwell full-time at that position and went on to lead the league in receiving.

So switching back from the rover slotback spot has taken some adjusting again.

It's taking a bit of timing and recognition with quarterback Henry Burris for Thelwell to be the big-strike receiver he once was in this league.

And Thelwell recognizes where he can make that difference.

Against the Toronto Argonauts last week, he and Copeland ran one of the Stamps' standard plays.

The two receivers cross at the line of scrimmage and hope both defensive backs bite on the short route.

The play was run well, and Thelwell burst open, but he didn't get his hand up quick enough for Burris to see him behind coverage and the QB threw to Copeland for an incomplete pass.

Thelwell feels he has good chemistry with Burris, but he also has to gain the trust of offensive co-ordinator George Cortez to get him to call plays that used to be designed for Rambo.

"I think Hank has always trusted me," Thelwell said.

"Coach Cortez is the one I have to impress, so I have to get it right in practice.

"The way coach Cortez works is you have to get it right in practice or he won't call it in the game. So I have to get it right the first time.

"I think he is starting to trust me a lot more."

With his experience, Thelwell knows that if he continues on this pace, there will be a huge outing in the near future.

Labour Day was kind to him in the past, so he hopes it can happen again.

"I know what to expect," Thelwell said. "I know the atmosphere. I'm the kind of player that thrives in big games. Not that I don't get excited to play every game, but I seem to step up in important games. I have a feeling about this one. I feel I'm due for a big game so why not now?"

IAN.BUSBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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