Stamps' backup QB plan into effect

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:30 AM ET

The countdown is on.

The battle will soon come to a head, and with three challengers for the crown.

There are still a few sleeps before Sunday’s pre-season game against the Edmonton Eskimos, but the trio of quarterbacks vying for the back-up role behind Henry Burris know the importance of that game.

“I’m antsy every time I get a chance with reps (in practice),” Drew Tate said. “I’m trying to take advantage of every rep I get, and I’m sure everybody else is the same at every position.”

Who is the true incumbent for the No.-2 job in Calgary?

Who will be the odd-man out between Tate, Barrick Nealy and the recently arrived Zac Champion, all of whom have CFL experience?

Traditionally, Burris takes the helm for a few series in the first of the two pre-season games, and then a half’s worth of action in Game 2, and the rest is split up among the others.

Nealy has probably the most pressure on him, having been here the longest.

With three full seasons in Calgary under his belt, the 26-year-old pivot is at a make-it-or-break-it point of his career.

“A lot rides on those games, and they determine a lot,” Nealy said. “The past few years, I believe I’ve done fairly well in those pre-season games. One thing I want to focus on is throw the ball a little more and show what I can do.

“I’m excited. I know it’s decision-making time, and when the lights go on, I’m going to show up.

“That’s my mindset. I have to show up.”

In the last few days, Nealy and Tate were given a quick reminder of how tenuous their jobs are.

The Stampeders had five quarterbacks under contract just a week ago, but rookie hopeful Michael Desormeaux was cut on the eve of main camp and fellow freshman Dennis Brown was axed on Monday.

That left three quarterbacks standing, one for every spot on the roster, right?

Wrong.

Tuesday’s arrival of Champion, who spent last season with the B.C. Lions, was a quick reminder nothing is set in stone.

“That’s always going to be the way this business works,” Tate said. “They’re always going to bring in guys to push and, to be honest, that’s a good thing. You can’t get lazy, because if you get lazy, you get passed by and you get cut.

“Bringing in Zac is just going to help us compete.”

In some people's eyes, signing Champion is a sign the club isn’t happy with what it has seen from Tate and Nealy.

Another way to look at it is adding Champion is pushing them along with more competition.

Certainly, there must be some mind games.

“I just try to focus on me,” Nealy said. “Zac is a really good quarterback and been in the same position I’ve been in, and with Drew here, we’re all competing. We’re trying to find a spot for ourselves.

“This team, they’re going to pick the top three guys they feel are best for this team. That’s written in stone, we all understand that, so you just have to focus on yourself to do the best every day.

“That’s the way I look at it.”

Still, a mid-camp arrival raises questions.

“With the quarterback position, you have to be on the right team, in the right situation and get the right breaks. There are a lot of things that factor,” Nealy said. “But it all boils down to controlling what you can control. It’s trying to get better. This will be my fourth full year here, so I’ve been here a long time. I’m an old face here, but really haven’t played.

“That’s the situation I’m in, but I know this team will keep the guys who are the best fit for this team.

“It’s a crazy business, but to play this game is a blessing and an honour. It’s not something everyone can do, so I wake up every day knowing God gave me a gift and I have to play the cards as I go and enjoy it.”


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