Former Stampeder shines

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:37 PM ET

The Stampeders chose to stay away from William Fields this season and now it seems opposing quarterbacks are avoiding him, too.

The former Calgary defensive back, second in the CFL with four interceptions this season, has been a promising addition to a Winnipeg Blue Bombers defence that has struggled while posting a 1-5 record.

Fields said earlier this week returning to Calgary dead last in the West was "embarassing," despite his strong play.

The Bombers D is last in average yards surrendered per game and has allowed the most passing yards of any team, a stat only exacerbated by an offence that is also one of the CFL's least productive -- at least until recently.

But Fields has been a surprisingly productive free-agent acquisition at corner after falling out of favour with the previous regime in Calgary and failing to win over the new Stamps coaching staff (although co-ordinator Denny Creehan remains) intent on adding size in the secondary.

Fields' four picks, second only to Ottawa's Korey Banks, has CFL pivots avoiding the five-year CFL veteran's side of the field, making for some lonely games.

"Sometimes I have slow days," says Fields, who'll face Henry Burris and the Stampeders tonight (5 p.m.).

"I don't know if that's the scheme of things or if they want to make plays at the other side or whatever. You never know. I have to stay focused for when the plays do come to me.

"Interceptions are always going to get you the recognition that most people want. I've always been consistent and I think I'm still being consistent."

He says his departure from Calgary after four productive years, including a starting role in the Stampeders 2001 Grey Cup season when he collected five interceptions, isn't about proving his worth again in this league.

"I think I've been proving myself since I came to the CFL but maybe it's standing out a bit more because I'm with another team," said Fields, 27.

"I feel like I always played well but I'm making more plays now. I've always been a good cover guy and a pretty decent shutdown corner so I don't think this season is anything new."

His acquisition in Winnipeg reunited him with former Stampeders defensive co-ordinator Jim Daley, now head coach with the Blue. Daley said finding Fields available in the off-season allowed him to add a versatile DB who always impressed with his effort in Red and White.

"When we had Willie when I was here with Wally, he was a player who played with very high energy and competitiveness and is a very aggressive, physical corner," Daley said.

"Sometimes what happens is, when you get off the roster and you get a new opportunity, you take advantage of it. From Day 1 of camp this spring to today, he has practised and played at as high a level of football as you could ever ask of a player on an everyday basis. His coverage, his physical play, has just been phenomenal. He's taken advantage of capitalizing on this opportunity."

Fields played just 12 regular-season games in 2004 before being sidelined by an injury. He never returned to action.

"All I knew was that I had back spasms one day at practice and I never got back on the field," Fields said.

"No one ever told me anything. If they don't want to tell me, that's fine. I practised hard every day."

While the Stampeders chose to shake up the secondary this season, they are certainly pleased with coverage from corners Ben Kelly and Jermaine Chatman.

A shortcoming would be the lack of interceptions, with Chatman recording the team's only pick through five games leaving the Stamps last in that category.

That's three fewer than Fields alone.


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