CALGARY - Bye-bye, bumps.
Welcome back, boys.
The Calgary Stampeders got back to business Monday morning at McMahon Stadium, returning to practice for the first time after a week-long layoff and keeping head athletic therapist Pat Clayton a bit less busy than he’s been in recent memory.
“Patty Clayton was joking that everybody was in (the training room) trying to get healthy for the bye week, trying to get going. It was packed before that and it was empty today,” grinned Stamps fullback Rob Cote, who is primed to return to the lineup after missing four games with a knee injury.
“I think everybody is feeling good.”
That’s bad news for the rest of the West Division.
Despite a slew of injuries since the beginning of training camp, the Stamps are alone in top spot with a 5-2 record. While the three other West Division squads rest this week, the Red & White are readying for Saturday’s matinee against the Montreal Alouettes (5-2) at McMahon Stadium.
Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo might want to keep an eye out for Stamps all-star linebacker Juwan Simpson, who could be a bit ornery after a knee injury spoiled his plans to return home for the bye week.
“I was often upset, every day. You talk to some of your friends and they’re back in their hometown, they’re relaxing, and yet I’m up here going to treatment,” Simpson said. “But it helped tremendously.
I think being here and being off my feet and still getting good therapy and treatment, I think that helped tremendously.”
Simpson and Cote aren’t the only ones who benefited from a week of rest.
Receiver Arjei Franklin, offensive lineman Edwin Harrison, defensive back Taurean Allen and kicker Rob Maver all remain on the nine-game injured list, but each of them also participated in some drills during Monday’s muggy session.
Karl McCartney was also running around, leaving fellow linebacker Daren Stone, defensive tackle Corey Mace and receiver Landan Talley as the only spectators, while starting halfback Brandon Smith missed his flight back to Calgary and was absent from Monday’s practice.
And then there’s the curious case of Burke Dales. The all-star punter missed the first half of Monday’s workout before emerging from the locker-room with a brace on his left knee.
After practice, he showed off a bruise and scrape on his right thigh and told reporters he’d fallen about eight feet from his sleeping quarters at teammate Justin Phillips’ cottage in Ontario when a step on a ladder busted after he awoke and descended Saturday morning.
“I twisted my knee a little bit, but it really isn’t a problem at all,” Dales said. “It was just a freak accident, but it could have been a lot worse. I’ll be punting (Tuesday).”
Other than that, this is a healthy bunch.
Probably as healthy as they’ve been since the start of the regular season, or even earlier than that. The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time.
“It’s been a MASH unit. We’ve had the STARS helicopter going in and out of here each and every day, airlifting personnel in and out,” said Stamps quarterback Henry Burris. “It’s good to see that some guys took the week to get healed up and get their feet back under them and put some smiles back on their faces.”
After being sidelined for two months with a leg infection, OL John Bender is back on Calgary’s practice roster. The Stamps also signed R Donovan Morgan and DB Brent Vinson to their practice roster and released DB Darrick Brown, DL Shawn Mayne and R Steven Turner.