Final Stampeder cuts coming soon

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:32 PM ET

John Hufnagel has a good idea who will make up his starting roster July 1, but nobody is making him reveal it yet.

And with roster cutdown still two days away, why not make his players sweat a little during another two practice sessions?

After the Calgary Stampeders beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders 41-17 Sunday in the final pre-season outing, some of Hufnagel’s decisions became clearer, while others remain too close to call.

Still, the 2010 Stamps are taking shape in the coach’s mind despite not making any cuts Monday.

“I have a pretty good idea of what direction we’re going to take but I’m going to take my time doing it,” said Hufnagel, who expects two uptempo practices with final impressions on the line.

“I will not say they can’t change my mind — either for the good or for the bad — by how they conduct themselves in practice.”

Once Hufnagel figures out who his starters are, he will then have to make sure there are backups everywhere and that’s where the import ratio gets tricky.

It’s not as easy as picking the best 42 players to start the regular season July 1 against the Toronto Argonauts.

Some players might win a roster spot on versatility.

For instance, Keon Raymond is battling Ray Cheatam for the strong-side linebacker position and both had great outings against the Riders.

Raymond had an interception, while Cheatam led the team with five defensive tackles. But Raymond has played all over the secondary since arriving with the team in 2008 and may make a better roving backup.

If Milt Collins or John Eubanks don’t work out at the halfback positions, Raymond could easily move back to a position at which he finished last year.

“He’s the type of guy you want on your football team,” Hufnagel said about Raymond. “He’s intelligent and he’s a serious person concerning his job.

“They both played well. Ray has come on well and Keon has responded to the challenge. He’s raised the level to his game. Competition brings the best out of people. I’m happy with the way both men played in this game.”

Raymond was given less than a week to get ready for a position switch, as he and Collins only swapped after the first pre-season outing, but the move didn’t hurt.

The 27-year-old only had one interception last season so he is happy to get his mitts on one already.

“This off-season, I tried to do a lot of hand strengthening,” Raymond said. “I can’t afford to drop any this year.

“I wasn’t worrying about anyone else and what they were doing. When I had my opportunity to make a play,

I just made a play.”

On Thursday, Hufnagel must declare his 46-man active roster and a seven-man practice roster.

There are currently 76 players on the entire roster, so the only question is how many players Hufnagel wants to put on the injured list to start the season, which still counts against the salary cap.

“Those are things we have to play some mental gymnastics with,” said Hufnagel, who doesn’t expect anyone to be on the nine-game injured list (which doesn’t count against the cap).

“That’s why I’m trying to find out more about the guys who are hurt ... That’s why I’m taking my time.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca


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