Stampeders' Maurice Price a game-changer
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
|Stampeders wide receiver Maurice Price speaks to the media at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ont., Nov. 24, 2012. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - A fractured ankle couldn't keep Maurice Price from getting his hands on the football.
Not after six seasons of a pro career that had yet to see him get a foothold with any team. Not after a 2011 season in which he didn't play a down anywhere, despite being healthy. And certainly not with time ticking on a pro career that he always felt held such promise.
So while the rest of his Calgary Stampeders teammates practised in the heat of summer, Price took a stool onto the practice field and grabbed somebody to throw him the ball.
"His work ethic is amazing," Stamps quarterback Kevin Glenn said. "When he went down in training camp, that didn't stop him. He would come out to practice with a helmet on in the hot, hot weather, sit on a chair and catch balls from a quarterback. He always wanted to get better. The guy is a machine.
"He didn't wait until he was back on the roster to take advantage of his opportunity."
Sunday's 100th Grey Cup at the Rogers Centre will be Price's eighth game in the CFL, and few before him have made such a profound impact in such a short period of time. He not only has taken advantage of his chance, but completely changed the complexion of the Stamps offence.
The Argos strategy in handling Price could go a long way to deciding who hoists the Cup late in the evening at the Rogers Centre. Do they double-cover Nik Lewis, as other opponents have earlier in the season, and leave Price to make big plays? Or do they double up on Price, whose speed has the attention of everyone now?
"I got a lot of double-teams the last two times we played (the Argos), but with the addition of Mo Price making big plays over the last five weeks, we'll see how they are going to play it," Lewis said. "If I get a lot of single coverage, I feel pretty good about my chances.
"To have a player that's so explosive and go downfield, he's added a whole new dimension to our offence. You've added another superstar to our lineup that you have to cover. It makes it really hard for (Argos defensive coordinator Chris Jones) now, because who do you double?"
That explosiveness has been lethal in the Stamps' late-season run and playoff victories over Saskatchewan and B.C. Price now has four consecutive 100-yard performances and is the first receiver to enter the Grey Cup with 100-plus yards in two playoff games since Jeff Boyd in 1988.
Since the Argos were done with the Stamps by the middle of August, winning both regular-season contests, they haven't seen Price in the flesh. What they have seen on tape from the speedy Florida native, however, is 4.29 speed for the 40 and a touchdown threat every time he gets the ball in his hands.
Credit the Stamps coaching staff for waiting on Price to get healthy and for offensive coordinator Dave Dickenson to find a way to utilize him in a suddenly more dangerous and diverse offence.
"It was pretty tough for me, disappointing more than anything, because I had such high goals for myself coming into the season," Price said of the injury he suffered during training camp. "I didn't let it get me down. I just stayed working, stayed positive and knew it was my time.
"I had it in my mind that I wanted to be an impact player, not just be here just wearing a jersey. I wanted to leave my mark and contribute in a big way."
With back-to-back 117-yard games in the post-season, Price has done just that and in the process has flattered Glenn's passing stats. In the West Final victory over B.C., Price caught just 15 passes but for 303 yards. In the two post-season contests, the Stamps are averaging an impressive 18 yards per catch.
"His speed has been a factor," Calgary coach John Hufnagel said. "The last four games he has continued to open up the wide side of the field for us."
LAST YEAR: NOTHING
The busted-up ankle was a pain, but it wasn't the lowest football low Calgary receiver Maurice Price has suffered in the past year and a half.
The bone would heal, after all, which is more than could be done for the wounds of the 2011 season in which the speedy wideout didn't play anywhere after being cut by a pair of NFL teams and returned to his native Florida to wait for another call the wasn't going to come.
"That was probably the lowest point for me," Price said. "Sitting at home, watching everybody and not having a job. I was signed by the Redskins but as soon as the lockout ended they released me. Then Tampa had me in their camp a couple of weeks later and I thought I did pretty well but they released me and I never got a call from anybody else."
The 'Skins and Bucs were the fifth and six NFL stops for the 27-year-old who briefly was with the Stampeders in 2009 but didn't play a game.