Stampeders sick bay filling up fast

Stamps defensive end Justin Phillips is lost for the season with a torn ACL he suffered in Friday's...

Stamps defensive end Justin Phillips is lost for the season with a torn ACL he suffered in Friday's 44-3 beat of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agenc

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:22 PM ET

CALGARY - Justin Phillips knew immediately his knee wasn't OK.

By the time he got to the sidelines, he had confidence his team would be all right, though.

The way things are going with the Calgary Stampeders this season, they are getting used to dealing with long-term injuries.

When Phillips went down with a knee injury on the opening kickoff Friday night -- on Saturday it was confirmed to be a torn ACL -- the Stamps were dealt another blow.

This was another core veteran Canadian player out for the season.

But the 27-year-old isn't worried about this team.

They managed to beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 44-3 without him Friday night, and they will continue fighting through this adversity going forward.

"We have great character on this team," Phillips said. "I thought that since Day 1.

"When someone goes down, someone else picks up the slack. Not only that, the guys who are hurt don't have egos, so they are helping coach. Now, I have to help coach the younger guys on who to play my special teams spots, especially."

When Phillips goes on the nine-game injured list next week, he will be the 12th one there and 13th who has spent time on long-term IR this season.

Considering that list includes the No. 1 quarterback (Drew Tate), two starting offensive linemen, the top kick returner and four projected starters on defence, the Stamps are plugging along nicely at 7-4 and solidly in second place in the West Division.

"I've never been part of a team with this many injuries," Phillips said. "Not just minor stuff. Some pretty serious knee injuries. I don't know what the heck is going on. Is it the field or the way we're training these days? Something doesn't seem right."

The timing for Phillips couldn't have been worse.

For the first time this season, the six-year Stampeders defensive end was set to be a starter due to Kenny Pettway's nagging leg injury.

In training camp this year, Phillips had minor knee surgery on his left leg and missed three games.

He came back in Week 4 and slowly worked his way back to where he left off.

What burns most is the Stamps are playing well and heading into a stretch drive looking to make a long playoff run.

"We're climbing the mountain and we're getting close to peaking as a team," Phillips said. "I was almost to the point where I wanted to be in the second half of the season.

"The timing of it isn't any good, but things like this are out of your control."

Phillips will have surgery when the swelling in his knee goes down, and he will hope to return at the start of next year.

Usually when a starting Canadian goes down early in a game, it can cause major problems for a CFL team. The Stamps structured their roster so that it didn't hurt that much that Phillips went out.

The team dressed 21 Canadians (22, if you count third-string QB Brad Sinopoli), which is more than required, although it was fellow non-import Junior Turner who picked up most of the action.

"The one thing that has saved us, is we did have some Canadian depth that I was able to keep around," Stamps GM/head coach John Hufnagel said.

"We've handled adverse situations this year more consistently than we have in other years.

"This whole team has united since Day 1 of training camp. They have taken to heart what I've said. If you are on this team in some capacity, you have to be ready when your opportunity comes."

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter @SUNIanBusby


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