Good start key for Stamps

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:32 PM ET

When Calgary Stampeders players show up for training camp, head coach John Hufnagel will set an odd agenda for the following six weeks.

If the Stamps hope to return to the championship form of 2008, a strong start against a tough schedule will be key.

After camp kicks off June 6, the Stamps head to Edmonton the following Sunday for their first pre-season outing.

After their second exhibition matchup a week later at home against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, there are 10 days to get ready for the season opener July 1 against the Toronto Argonauts.

Usually the extra days of practice would be at the start, not the end of camp. Once the fireworks go off on Canada, that’s where it gets tough.

The Stamps will have eight days to prepare for a July 10 visit to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, then they will stay in the Ontario city for three days before taking on the Toronto Argonauts July 14.

If they weather those first three regular-season games, Hufnagel is confident his team will get better from there.

“This is a unique thing,” Hufnagel said in a season preview teleconference Wednesday.

“Over the two years I’ve been here, it has not been this way. It’s a new experience for not only the veterans but also the many young players who will be competing during training camp.”

Hufnagel wasn’t yet in Calgary the last time the Stamps started out with a schedule this rough when the city turns its attention to the Stampede.

In 2007, the Stamps went from a Week 2 matchup Sunday in Saskatchewan straight to Hamilton, where they practised until playing the Toronto Argonauts on Thursday night.

The result was 49-8 and 48-15 losses — one of the worst two-game stretches in team history.

It started a season that went completely off the rails when quarterback Henry Burris was injured — in Hamilton no less — later that year.

There will be no routine until Week 4 when the team gets into a string of four straight weekend starts.

In football more than any other sport, the routine of camp and season is important for on-field production, and the Stamps won’t have it, so Hufnagel wants players to be aware.

“All those things, nobody has had to experience it over the past three years,” Hufnagel said.

“I don’t want it to be a surprise to the players when it does occur.

“I want them to think it out and understand how important each and every day of training camp is. They need to know the plan that day, that week and what the plan is for the whole training camp experience.

“We have to know how to deal with the opening three games of the season.”

In 2008, the Stamps were 3-1 to start the season, but last year they went 0-2 to come out of the gates slowly and they were 3-4 at the bye week.

“I would like to get off to a better start (this year),” Hufnagel said.

“There is a lot of room for improvement there ... We have younger players who will assume bigger roles on this team. I’m anxious to see them blossom as pro football players and be productive.

“We need to have good fortune on our hands and stay competitive. We have to get better each and every week.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca


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