CALGARY - Corey Mace plans on celebrating on Canada Day.
If all goes well, the Calgary Stampeders will be celebrating a return of an important part to their Canadian content.
July 1, 2011 was a disaster for Mace.
He blew out his Achilles tendon in the season-opener against the Toronto Argonauts at McMahon Stadium, an injury which ended his season just as it was starting.
So when the anniversary rolls around — and the Stamps just so happen to open on Canada Day against the Montreal Alouettes at home — Mace is looking for a different result.
“It’s a coming out party,” Mace said. “Even though I popped my Achilles that day, I still had a sack.
“I at least have to do something along those lines. It’s been a full 365. I’m ready to get after it.”
When Mace was hurt last year, it caused a ripple effect in the Stampeders lineup. Adrian Davis took over the bulk of the reps at defensive tackle as the Canadian defensive-line depth took a hit. A few weeks later, as Mace was getting surgery, offensive lineman J’Micheal Deane moved over to defence to help out.
It wasn’t until Brian Bulcke came to the Stamps from the NFL that the position was solidified a bit.
Now that Mace has returned, and Bulcke and him are rotating at the tackle spot, the Stamps can feel that it’s a position of strength.
“We have the best d-line depth in the league as far as Canadians go,” Mace said. “It was just a terrible situation. Even if we had won the Grey Cup last year — yes I would take the ring — but knowing
I didn’t contribute to the team’s play, it was a negative situation for myself.”
At the end of the 2011 season, Mace was close to returning to action, practicing with the team leading up to the playoff loss to the Edmonton Eskimos.
Had the team advanced to the Grey Cup, there is a chance the 26-year-old would have suited up.
That might not have been the best situation.
With the full off-season to continue rehab, Mace is feeling like he can take a huge step forward in his third CFL season.
Sunday’s mock game will be one stepping stone, as will the pre-season outings, but right now the Port Moody, B.C., native believes things are headed in the right direction with his play.
“Getting off the ball and change of direction are good,” Mace said. “Playing basketball in the off-season has helped me get to where I am today.
I haven’t had a problem with it at all.”
Defensive co-ordinator Rick Campbell likes what he sees from Mace in his return.
Although it’s just practice so far, Campbell is getting the sense that the injury which has ended careers won’t be slowing Mace’s development.
“If you watch him from the very first day, he’s getting better with each practice,” Campbell said. “If he keeps going like he keeps going, there is no reason to believe this won’t be a good year for him.”
Mace is glad to have been pencilled in as the No. 1 guy at his position once again. It’s a vote of confidence in all the work he did to get back.
“In my mind, in my teammates’ minds, and definitely the men upstairs, I have to prove myself,” Mace said. “Whether they had me as a one, two or fourth-string on the depth chart, you will get the same effort out of me.”
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