Grind time is fine

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:55 AM ET

CALGARY - No one would have questioned had Dimitri Tsoumpas taking a few training camp practices off.

There is a certain respect given the most senior hoggies on the Calgary Stampeders offensive line.

However, not only is Tsoumpas still young — at age 25, he’s only in his fourth CFL season — he would have given anything to be part of the grind.

The problem was the grind had taken a toll on him, way earlier than expected for the most veteran Stamps offensive lineman.

“Trust me, I heard about it,” said Tsoumpas Monday after his first full practice with the first-team offence in nearly a month.

“I took the veteran camp off whether I wanted to or not. It really sucked to see those guys go through some hard times, and you can’t really be in there to grind it out with them. It’s something I wish I could have done.”

It was during the second training camp practice June 6 when Tsoumpas pulled his hamstring.

It’s been a long month of watching and waiting ever since.

With the Stamps using three new faces on the line, the new group struggled to start the season.

Tsoumpas returns to his starting spot at right guard, replacing rookie J’Micheal Deane.

“Dimitri’s a guy we ride and die with,” said Stamps QB Henry Burris. “He’s our leader up front along with (centre) Tim O’Neill.

“Having him back now is great. He’s one of the cornerstones of this team. He’s one of the bright faces at his position, one of the best players in the league as an offensive lineman … It’s a huge benefit to have him back.”

The Stamps get their quiet leader back just in time to face the most ferocious defence in the CFL.

In two games, the Blue Bombers have allowed just two touchdowns while sacking the quarterback nine times.

Defensive tackle Doug Brown, who has three of those sacks, can be a handful on the interior, which means Tsoumpas will won’t get a mulligan to start this season.

“When you are going against (Dorian) Smith and Doug Brown, you want the best going against them,” Burris said. “Those two guys bring it each and every play. If there is one guy we’re confident in, it’s big 67. Having him out there will provide a spark for our offensive line.”

Tsoumpas took a great deal of heat for missing so much practice time.

Until this season, he had so rarely missed action he became like wallpaper. You don’t notice it anymore.

Outside of a two-month stint in the NFL to start last year, he was always there in his starting spot.

When he was hurt, a couple of teammates or coaches referred to Tsoumpas as Newman — as in former Stampeders lineman Jesse Newman, who never took part in training camp — but that would elicit one of Tsoumpas’ icy glares defensive linemen usually get.

Burris instead calls Tsoumpas ‘Nickelback’ for the long curly locks he’s sporting these days.

“What is this Nickelback stuff?” Tsoumpas said in a cold voice before laughing.

“It’s all in good fun. It’s part of playing on the team.”

And that’s much better than watching.

twitter.com/ianbusby57


Videos

Photos