Army vet gets shot at spot

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:41 AM ET

The military veteran appears headed back to the front lines.

Nursing an injured back the last few weeks, Robert (Hammer) McCune has been watching from home as his teammates have battled.

The Calgary Stampeders rookie was in the trenches Tuesday.

But McCune, who spent four years in active duty for the U.S. Army, felt a little like he was in a foreign country lined up at defensive end instead of the linebacker spot, for which he was trained and recruited.

"They've got me playing a little defensive end, rushing the passer," the 31-year-old McCune said after taking repetitions with the starters in Mike Labinjo's place.

"They put me in to get some reps and get a feel for it. I'm just adjusting and learning how to play the position."

Told a couple of weeks ago he'd be tested with the switch, McCune has been trying his hand at the new position with the scout team. Hitting heads with the starters was a little more challenging.

"It felt pretty good (Tuesday). I was a little slow because I was kind of thinking on the move," McCune said. "But I'm looking forward to (Wednesday's practice) and just going out and playing fast.

"I'll get home and study a little bit more and learn my assignments so I can play how I know I can play -- physical and fast."

Labinjo has come under scrutiny for inconsistent play, and the coaching staff is looking at shaking things up.

They won't reveal whether things will remain as they appeared Tuesday when the game kicks off Saturday against the Saskatchewan Roughriders at McMahon Stadium, but they are exploring every option available in order to improve.

"We're just finding out what our players can do," said Stamps head coach John Hufnagel. "We're trying to find out what Robert can bring to the table. We're using practice time to discover that."

Labinjo is Canadian, so to make ratio while inserting McCune into the rotation, middle linebacker Juwan Simpson would come out in favour of rookie Karl McCartney, or Miguel Robede would jump in at defensive tackle.

Simpson has been solid at middle linebacker this season -- and leads the league in special-teams tackles -- so it would be surprising to see him sit.

Meanwhile , McCune's crash-course continues, which means the Stamps' long break -- with three more practice days remaining in a nine-day stretch between games -- will be used to their fullest.

"I still have time to learn," McCune said. "I'm going to continue to study and help the team where I can help at."

He'll be fresh and anxious to make an impression after injuring his back in training camp and sitting out the first three games of the CFL season.

"I'm good to go. It took a little while, but I'm back now feeling 100% and just glad to be able to dress for this game," said the former NFL linebacker, who had stints with the Washington Redskins, the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns.

"It wasn't fun. But being injured, I couldn't get out there and play the way I wanted to play. I feel real good now. I'm ready to get out there and get some game-action."

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