Stamps defence takes big hit

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:57 PM ET

All season long, the Calgary Stampeders offence has thanked its defence for keeping the team in games.

Now the tables could be turned. Most of the adversity thrown at the Stamps during the 2011 CFL season has been with offensive injuries, but now they are dealing with a major loss on defence.

Middle linebacker Juwan Simpson will miss at least a couple of weeks with a knee injury. Simpson took over the position at the start of last season and was named the 2010 West Division most outstanding defensive player.

"He's definitely the leader of our defence," said Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris. "He's an emotional guy, and he's always around the ball.

"We have to help on the offensive side by staying on the field.

"You can't truly fill Juwan's spot because there is only one Juwan Simpson. But we have guys ready to step in and do the job."

Robert McCune will move from defensive end to middle linebacker to help cover for the loss. McCune started last season in that spot before finding a home on the line, but he also helped cover the loss of wide-side linebacker Malik Jackson for two games already this season.

The one thing McCune won't be is the energetic force-of-nature that Simpson often is as the most vocal player on the defensive side of the football.

"That's Juwan -- he's a guy who gets other fired up," McCune said. "I'm more about letting my play doing the talking.

"It's a challenge for me to step up and show the coaches I can be the guy who can play defensive line or linebacker. I'm a hard-working guy, so the challenge is always good for me to test myself. I've not done badly, but there are things you can work on to get better."

Rookie Akwasi Antwi will back up McCune, but the Stamps also lost Canadian Karl McCartney to another hamstring injury.

Despite the Simpson injury suffered in the third quarter, the Stampeders defence played a strong game Saturday night in a 24-19 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos at McMahon Stadium.

Although Fred Stamps had two first-half touchdowns, those were the only majors the Eskies scored. Ricky Ray was held to 229 yards, and the Eskimos only gained 95 yards rushing.

It was the fourth straight strong game for the Stamps defence.

In the other areas of the game, the Stamps certainly lost the matchups. Special teams were an issue too, as rookie kicker Rene Paredes missed 35- and 39-yard field-goal attempts and punter Burke Dales had a meagre 26-yard boot from his own zone that gave the Eskimos a chance at a field-goal.

"I'm not happy with our kicking overall," said Stamps head coach John Hufnagel. "We definitely didn't kick as well as the other team last night. I'm concerned with both areas."

Offensively, the Stamps struggled at times and were solid in others. Straight out of the gate from halftime, they went two-and-out for three straight series and heard the boo-birds from the McMahon Stadium fans, which seemed to wake them up.

It also shook up members of the Stamps offence.

"If you are a fan of us, you are in this with us -- booing us is like booing yourself," said receiver Nik Lewis. "Your part is to be loud during the game and give us a home-field advantage, regardless of what the score is. Your job is to be loud and give us an advantage.

"What if I get upset because I don't think stuff is going the right way? What if start walking routes? That's just like you booing.

"I don't start walking routes because I'm in it. I would never boo a team that I root for. I'm a fan too, and I would never boo a team I root for because I know they work hard."

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/ianbusby57


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