Big Bender sticks with Stamps

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:31 AM ET

CALGARY - There was one giant surprise when the Calgary Stampeders announced their official roster Saturday afternoon.

Turns out, there was no reason for the shock after all.

When the Stampeders sent out their final training camp cuts, offensive lineman John Bender was among the names released.

At that time, Bender had yet to make his practice roster spot official, so his parting with the team was premature.

It turned out the Stamps hadn’t given up on the 6-foot-8,

320-lb. prospect, who was a second-round draft pick a year ago.

When the team hit the field for rundown, Bender was among the group. His presence meant he was part of the practice roster after all.

As for other moves, most were expected.

The most experienced player released was receiver Reggie McNeal, a three-year veteran who was part of a four-player swap with the Toronto Argonauts this off-season.

From that deal, only Adrian Davis stuck with his new team, as the veteran defensive tackle will be a key part of the Stampeders defence.

The projected opening day roster will be much the same as year’s past. Nine of the

12 starting offensive spots will be the same, with the only change on the line, and that’s due partly to injuries.

On defence, nine of the 12 projected starters were in those roles last year as well.

“It was difficult,” said Stampeders head coach John Hufnagel. “Tough choices. We thought we would have a competitive training camp, and it turned out to be very competitive.

“The players came out every practice competing hard. It was a long night and an early morning.”

The Stamps only had a matter of 12 hours upon returning home from Edmonton to finalize the roster.

They are dealing with an injury to quarterback Drew Tate (dislocated shoulder), but they came out of the pre-season finale relatively healthy otherwise.

The banged up offensive line will bring new faces into the lineup. The starting tackles will be Gerald Cadogan and Stanley Bryant, while J’Micheal Deane will likely start at right guard in place of Dimitri Tsoumpas (hamstring).

Right tackle Edwin Harrison (torn pectoral muscle) starts the year on the nine-game injured list, but the line gets good news in that backup centre Jon Gott has recovered from his concussion.

“I’m optimistic with Jon,” Hufnagel said. “He will be partaking in practice (Monday). We will have to monitor him, but I believe he will be fine. I’m not as optimistic with Dimitri.”

The Stamps also put defensive back Taurean Allen on the nine-game injured list with a hip flexor problem.

There are eight first-year CFL players on the active roster, two — Deane and Greg Fassitt — who will likely be in starting jobs when the season opens. Fassitt and Geoff Tisdale look to be the cornerbacks replacing Dwight Anderson and Brandon Browner, although Johnnie Dixon made the roster and could factor in there as well.

“This is a good accomplishment, but this is the first step,” Fassitt said. “I’m looking at going to the Grey Cup. I’m looking at having the defence be dominating.

“We have a good team with a lot of talent and skill. We will come together and create a strong nucleus.”


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