CALGARY - The timing couldn’t be worse.
With quarterbacks across the CFL dropping like flies, the league has responded by handing out fines and ejections for questionable hits.
Toronto Argonauts starter Cleo Lemon will miss Friday’s game in Edmonton. Anthony Calvillo of the Montreal Alouettes and Buck Pierce of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will play despite absorbing major punishment last weekend.
The league, cringing at the thought of a bunch of back-ups short-hopping passes across the country, is stepping in.
Quarterbacks are to be protected at all costs.
And that leaves Calgary Stampeders defenders in a difficult spot.
They want to be physical against Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant, one of the league’s most elusive pivots.
Middle linebacker Robert McCune said he needs to make sure he stays on the field and doesn’t earn an early shower Saturday in Regina.
“Our head coach just kind of explained it to us,” McCune said of the ever-shifting rules.
“He said don’t dive into the quarterback, lead with your head. That’s what we have to do. I don’t want to get ejected from the game for a foolish penalty.
“That’s an area where you have to be careful.”
Defensive back Demetrice Morley, who drew a flag for a marginal hit on Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray last week, said discipline will be key Saturday.
“It’s not too confusing once coaches come in and tell the rules and regulations,” he said.
“Nobody wants fines, and nobody wants to miss games, so if the league says we have to do it this way, that’s what we have to go by.
“You have to have that mindset of if the ball is gone, you don’t hit him. You have to pull up and make the right decision.”
Argonauts linebacker Ejiro Kuale, who was tossed for a vicious hit against Pierce last week, was fined Wednesday. Boatmen defensive end Ricky Foley and head coach Jim Barker were also lighter in the wallet for making comments about the ejection.
But while the Stamps want to avoid talking to head office, the need to play Durant tough is obvious.
The Riders star had lugged the pigskin just a half-dozen times for 40 yards through the first three games — all losses. On Sunday in Montreal, he scampered for a more Durant-like 71 yards on seven carries.
And, not coincidently, his performance led to a victory over the previously unbeaten Als.
“That’s him,” McCune said. “Playing him last year, he did that a lot, so I expect that from him.
“I also played him in college, and he ran a lot there, too.”
McCune said containing Durant is difficult enough. Putting a big hit on him is a whole different story.
“With Durant, he’s a shifty guy,” McCune said. “I’m sure it’ll be pretty hard to get that kind of a lick on him.
“If he sees somebody coming, he’ll duck. He’s a pretty shifty quarterback, so the only way you’d really get him is if he’s looking away and you come from the back side.”
With all-star Juwan Simpson out with a knee injury, McCune will slide over from his spot on the defensive line. It’s nothing new for the former military man, who filled in for Simpson when the Stamps went to Regina last season.
“I’m pretty familiar with middle linebacker,” he said.
“I’ve been out there getting reps this week.”