Hammer drops on Stamps vet

Robert McCune. Sun file photo.

Robert McCune. Sun file photo.

Ian Busby, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:27 PM ET

CALGARY - The news hit Juwan Simpson like a hammer.

In the first round of cuts made by Calgary Stampeders GM/head coach John Hufnagel this spring, veteran Robert McCune was one of the names.

For two seasons, the defender nicknamed ‘The Hammer’ was a versatile depth player with the Stampeders, and he got close to those around him.

But the 33-year-old was in tough during the 2012 training camp, as he was working out at middle linebacker.

Simpson has returned this spring to full health at the middle linebacker spot after a season plagued by a knee injury, while there also are some promising newcomers also vying for the job.

While Simpson understands the situation, the news still came as a surprise.

“It was one of the things you didn’t want to believe,” Simpson said. “You just hoped they would find a way to keep everybody.

“It’s the mindset you have because these are guys we bonded with. It’s a tough pill to swallow because he was a good guy and great in the locker-room.

“We know it’s part of the business. I’m sure he will find another home in the CFL. He’s a great player.”

Hufnagel announced seven releases Saturday, but there are still a few more to come Sunday as the team needs to be down to 65 (not including draft picks and junior players).

McCune was the only veteran released. The others — all imports — are defensive linemen K.C. Asiodu and Renard Williams, defensive backs Tim Clark and Jason Teague, receiver Curtis Walls and running back Bryson Tucker.

In the past two seasons, McCune played both defensive end and linebacker, filling in for injuries at both positions. The Stamps are now deep on the defensive line.

“McCune was the most difficult one,” Hufnagel said. “It’s the tough part of the job.

“We knew the competition we had and the depth we have at the linebacker position. Versatility and age came into play.

“(Rookie) Deron Mayo really showed some promise, and (Joe Lobendahn, a former starter with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers) showed he can stand up.

“Joe is a bit more versatile. He can play (outside linebacker) if needed. We had to pare down at that (middle linebacker) position.”

Simpson’s play is also a reason why McCune could be let go.

The fifth-year veteran, who was the 2010 CFL West Division most outstanding defensive player, showed he is back to form in Friday’s pre-season win over the Edmonton Eskimos.

Although he wasn’t outspoken, the Stamps will miss McCune’s leadership. Simpson remembers three or four instances over the past two seasons, when McCune gave emotional speeches in the locker-room.

He managed to fire up the troops.

“When he gets really going and had those speeches, it really caught guys’ attention,” Simpson said. “He’s not like me. I talk all the time.

“Not saying the guys tune me out, but there are times when a different voice needs to be heard. The guys responded well to his voice.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNIanBusby


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