With the heavy chopping already completed, John Hufnagel spent Thursday doing some roster grooming.
Although he’s not into comparisons to past years, the GM-head coach is happy with how the 2010 Calgary Stampeders have taken shape.
There are 61 players ready to kick off the season on Canada Day against the Toronto Argonauts, but only 42 will be in uniform for the opener.
Those 42 are undecided right now but Hufnagel is sure he has a competitive group.
“I’m confident with this football team,” Hufnagel said. “We have a good nucleus of veterans, a good group of young players to push the veterans.
“Obviously, we have young players that need to step up and contribute to us winning football games.”
Hufnagel released seven players Thursday he hopes will show up for practice-roster duty when the team hits the field Friday for a special open practice at Shouldice Park (10:55 a.m.).
The PR will be made up of non-imports Mike Cornell (fullback) and Johnny Forzani (receiver), plus imports Raymond Brown (defensive back), Stanley Bryant (offensive line), Ray Cheatam (linebacker), Ronald Keels (receiver) and Kenny Mainor (defensive line).
The Stamps then put five players on the one-game injured list: DL Fernand Kashama, R Blaine Kruger, RB Rafael Little, R Ken-Yon Rambo and R P.K. Sam. Two players — OL Oamo Culbreath and DB Johnnie Dixon — were placed on the nine-game injured list, while linebacker Robert McCune was put on the disabled list.
The moves make official starter status of a handful of players. Keon Raymond is the starting strong-side linebacker, Juwan Simpson is the middle linebacker, Brandon Smith is a starting halfback and Deon Murphy will be the team’s kick returner.
“We will find out July 1 what type of football team we have,” Hufnagel said. “As far as how training camp went and the two pre-season games went, I’m pleased where we are today.
“There is still a great amount of work to get done before July 1 and carry forward throughout the season.”
In the battle to be the kick returner, Hufnagel said it was no contest with Murphy handily winning the job over Keels, who was kept around for insurance.
Murphy spent a few weeks on the practice roster last year and he made two long receptions in the pre-season while performing unremarkably on returns.
“He’s a sure-handed catcher of the punts,” Hufnagel said. “He is explosive. He’s shown that as a receiver. From our young receivers, he’s made the most big plays in practice and during games.”
One surprise on the active roster is Canadian receiver Ron Kelly, a University of Ottawa product who was playing senior football a year ago after getting no opportunity in the CFL.
“Whatever league he was playing in, he had great measureables demonstrated in his workout,” Hufnagel said. “He’s had an excellent camp. He was slowed for a few days by an injury but he kept up his assignments and when he got opportunities to make plays, he made plays.”
There is a decent chance all 61 players still on the roster will see time on the field this season, and Hufnagel will stress that to his team before Friday’s practice.
“It doesn’t matter where you are on this football team,” Hufnagel said. “Your responsibility is to make yourself better. That’s the best way to make the team better.
“You have to prepare each and every week like you are the starter. If you aren’t prepared, when you number is called, you will fail.”