Stamps rookie yields quality returns

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:40 PM ET

The result wasn’t positive, but the attempt certainly proved Deon Murphy is adapting to the quirks of the CFL game.

In the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 27-22 victory over the B.C. Lions in Vancouver, the Calgary Stampeders returner had a punt hit him and bounce to the opposition.

There was a method to the madness.

“I tried to draw the no-yards penalty,” said Murphy, who knew drawing a 15-yarder by catching the ball in the air would be better than a five-yarder on the ground.

“When I got to it, I felt I was getting there too fast. I tried to slow down. When I did that, it bounced off me knee. It never touched my hands. It just bounced off my knee.

“You have to be smart about it. We bounced back and came out with the win, so I’m good about it.”

Other than the hiccup, Murphy had another great outing in his rookie season.

He had punt returns of 12, 15 and 24 yards, the latter of which put the offence in position for a tide-turning touchdown drive.

The Kansas State product spent the final month of 2009 on the Stamps’ practice roster, and it was a crash-course with the CFL nuances.

But Murphy is a bright guy, and he realizes the returner position requires quick decision-making.

So if he can manipulate the rules to get 10 free yards, he will keep doing it.

“It was one of those things that I was trying to make the extra effort for the no-yards rule,” Murphy said. “It wasn’t like I was running with the ball and it came out. We ended up getting the ball right back. I felt OK about it. We did enough to win the game.”

To start this season, Murphy grabbed everyone’s attention immediately, although not for the way he wanted.

In the season-opener against the Toronto Argonauts, Murphy dropped three balls.

He was called out by head coach John Hufnagel about fumbling, and he immediately corrected the problem.

“I didn’t change the way I was holding, but I keep it close to my body now,” said Murphy, who has lost just the one fumble since then.

Heading into Week 7, the 24-year-old leads the league in total yards and kickoff return average (24.8 yards per return).

Although Murphy has just a 7.8-yard punt return average, he doesn’t have the 80- to 90-yarder that boosts those of his competitors, such as Hamilton’s Marcus Thigpen or Toronto’s Chad Owens.

There have been eight return touchdowns this season, but all have come from East Division teams. Thigpen has three, Owens and Montreal’s Tim Maypray have two each and Winnipeg’s Jovon Johnson has one.

Murphy would like nothing more than to be the first West Division returner to score.

“That will be like joining the club,” Murphy said. “I’m not stressing about it. I know the guys who have had returns are enjoying it. I know when I get mine, I will enjoy it, too. It will be good to return touchdowns with wins.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca


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