Stamps' offensive line taking heat

Stampeders Ben Archibald. (JIM WELLS/QMI Agency)

Stampeders Ben Archibald. (JIM WELLS/QMI Agency)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:25 PM ET

CALGARY — The Calgary Stampeders big men know they’re taking their share of shots from the critics.

When an offensive line loses three starters in one off-season — long-time standout Jeff Pilon to retirement, star-in-the-making Dimitri Tsoumpas to the NFL and youngster Jesse Newman to a sudden retirement — the questions are bound to be asked around the league.

But to call the new collection of offensive lineman Calgary’s Achilles heel may be pre-mature.

“We’ve heard of those statements being made about us. Does it affect us? Not really,” said star tackle Ben Archibald. “We’re going to work hard whether you say we’re going to be great or at the bottom of the pile. We hear things from other people and can see why things are said.

“Whether we agree with them or not, it’s up to us to prove what we are.”

Their first chance will be Sunday night’s pre-season clash in Edmonton.

Injuries will keep Godfrey Ellis and Matt Sheridan on the shelf, but the rest of the crew is pegged to go and everyone knows this is the first chance to show how far they’ve come as a group.

“When you’re around long enough to know what a talented group of guys looks like, you know they’re all good players,” said Dan Comisky, who came out of retirement after missing last season. “I’ve seen it and it’s pretty good.

“We’re going to get a lot of good things done with this group.”

Archibald, last year’s West Division nominee for top lineman honours, is the key at left tackle, and the club will look to either rookie imports Sam Allen or Edwin Harrison at right tackle.

Tim O’Neill and veteran Rob Lazeo are at centre, although, they can play guard, which leaves vets like Comisky and Sheridan and youngsters such as Jon Gott, Steve Myddelton and Oamo Culbreath in the mix.

Myddelton, a second-year CFLer who spent the bulk of last season on Calgary’s practice roster, knows he’s one of the question marks people are looking at, and wants to be an answer.

“They see great players have left and think, ‘Those guys are gone, so now you’re in trouble’ but the thing is, there is so much more to a story,” he said. “The coaches work very hard to make sure there are good, talented people here competing for spots and are going to be able to get the job done.”

For Archibald, that will mean going beyond just blocking this year.

Although 31 years old, it’s just his third CFL season, so he spent the last two years learning the Canadian game.

Now, he’ll be counted on to be more of a leader.

“I’m not the new guy any more and need to step into a role that’s needed, but also fits my personality,” said the soft-spoken BYU product. “I have my own leadership style and need to do the best I can to bring the whole group along. Now, I feel I understand the game, have a feel for how things go, I can fulfil a different role.”

Then again, it’s not like the crew is a bunch of raw rookies.

Lazeo and Comisky are in their 13th CFL season. Sheridan has played eight years, Ellis in in year six and O’Neill in his fourth year.

“Even though we have those veterans who departed, we still have Dan Comisky and Matt Sheridan, guys who are veterans and can impart experience onto younger guys,” Myddelton said.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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