Watch ya gonna do?

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:23 AM ET

Standing alone in the Stampeders' equipment room yesterday while several of his teammates gabbed with the media outside, Mike Labinjo's playoff heroics of one year ago seemed like a distant memory.

The quarterback-hunter never expected to find himself so far from the spotlight.

Arguably the Stamps' most dangerous defensive player in last year's post-season push, Labinjo will be a spectator for Sunday's West Division semifinal showdown against the Edmonton Eskimos.

"It's been frustrating, and I'd love to be out there and help contribute, because I know that I could make an impact," Labinjo said yesterday.

"But unfortunately, right now, the coaches don't see it that way, so I'm just going to sit by and wait and hopefully they'll call my name."

Labinjo has been practising in a green scout team pinny for the past two days and, barring an injury or a last-minute change of plans, will be watching the next instalment of the CFL's Battle of Alberta from the sidelines.

After refusing media requests Wednesday, Labinjo broke his silence yesterday and admitted this season has been his most frustrating as a pro.

"I never thought things would get to this point but, you know, I've got some work to do," Labinjo said. "If I don't get back in there this year, then next season is a different story."

Last season was a different story. Especially the post-season. Labinjo was a one-man wrecking crew during the Stamps' march to the 2008 Grey Cup, racking up four sacks, three pass knockdowns and a forced fumble in two playoff outings. Just days before the championship game, Stamps fans applauded news he'd inked a lucrative contract extension with the club.

This week, he'll undoubtedly be the CFL's highest-paid healthy scratch.

The 29-year-old has already missed eight outings this season, including six consecutive games with a leg fracture. He has often gone unnoticed when he's been on the field, too, struggling to transition from his old digs at defensive end to defensive tackle.

He finished the regular season with just one quarterback sack in 10 games. In the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business of professional football, Labinjo simply hasn't done enough to keep his job on Calgary's defensive front lines.

The biggest dilemma for the Stampeders brass is where to put him. Labinjo insisted yesterday he's most effective as a defensive end, the same spot he starred at last season. Problem is, he's currently built more like a defensive tackle.

Labinjo is listed in the Stamps media guide at 280 lb., but there's no question he weighs a lot more than that. Asked two days ago about his decision to hold Labinjo out of the lineup, Stamps boss John Hufnagel told reporters he can't put a 320-lb. player at defensive end.

Labinjo has heard the criticism about his weight, but he maintains that's not an issue.

"People always talk about my weight and this and that, but -- you know what? -- in the Grey Cup last year, I was pretty much the same weight and nobody said anything about that. It's only when things get bad that stuff like that comes out."

WES.GILBERTSON@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos