The NFL cavalry won’t be coming back to help the Calgary Stampeders.
Not that the Stamps had much hope they would see Brandon Browner and Tom Johnson back this season, but both players officially made NFL rosters Saturday.
Unlike the Saskatchewan Roughriders (Andy Fantuz) or the Edmonton Eskimos (Mark Restelli), the Stamps will forge ahead without an influx of veteran talent coming back from the NFL.
But upon finding out Browner made the Seattle Seahawks and Johnson made the New Orleans Saints, there was a sense of pride in Stampeders camp, especially for defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones.
“It’s a satisfaction,” Jones said. “We as a group are happy to see them make it.
“I’ve had guys with NFL abilities, and all they ever did was look at trying to get back to the NFL or get to the NFL. The majority of them never made it because they didn’t worry about the task at hand.
“Players have to worry about playing in this league and enjoy being in this locker-room. All the other stuff takes care of itself. If you are good enough and you perform here, you will probably get the opportunity (in the NFL).”
When Browner was with the Stampeders, he put the team’s goals ahead of his own, although he desperately wanted another NFL chance after spending a season on the Denver Broncos’ injured list.
Still, when he was heading into an option year and suffered a fractured ankle in the 2008 CFL West final against the B.C. Lions, he gutted it out and helped the Stamps win the Grey Cup.
His 6-foot-4 size and ability to play physical in coverage made him an instant hit in Seattle.
“Brandon has unique talents for a tall guy,” Jones said. “He has abilities, but his physical tools are just a little bit of what makes him a great player. Whenever he’s competing against somebody, it matters to him.”
Johnson came to the Stamps in 2009 after a couple of failed attempts to catch on with the Indianapolis Colts. His first season in the CFL was spent biding his time and adapting to the different style.
He won a tackle spot in training camp last season and proceeded to dominate as an interior lineman.
Being from Moss Point, Miss., the Saints are his hometown team, and he made it through final cuts despite not suiting up in the final exhibition game due to a calf injury.
“This is a great day for him,” said Stamps defensive tackle DeVone Claybrooks, an NFL veteran and 2002 Super Bowl winner who helped Johnson prepare for the move.
“He worked hard, and this is the reward. I’m happy for him.”
These are the first Stampeders to stick with NFL jobs after signing for a tryout since Tearrius George left following the 2007 CFL season.
In 2009, Charleston Hughes went to the Philadelphia Eagles, and last season, Dimitri Tsoumpas had a stint with the Miami Dolphins. Both returned to Calgary mid-season.
“I’m happy for Tom,” Hughes said. “He’s doing what most players in this league want to do. I’m not jealous at all. When my opportunity strikes again, I will be in the same position.”
Never at any point this season did Jones plan on having either player return, so having them officially gone changes nothing.
“I never put a lot of stock into it,” Jones added. “You don’t have time to worry about who you don’t have. You worry about who you do have.”