Milt Stegall believes so much in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers that he's giving them one more year.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have so much faith in Milt Stegall that they are giving the soon-to-be 37-year-old a raise, even though they are about to enter the CFL's new salary cap era.
And maybe, just maybe, they might hook up again in 2008.
"Never say never, but more than likely this will probably be it," the all-star slotback said yesterday after officially announcing that he was returning for a 13th season in Blue and Gold. "... Me coming back (in 2008), there's basically no chance of that. I'm saying that right now, but never say never."
Bombers GM Brendan Taman, who was celebrating his 40th birthday yesterday, gave himself a lovely present by signing the CFL's all-time touchdown receptions leader to a new, two-year contract, which includes an option for 2008.
It's believed Stegall will get a $20,000 raise this season to about $200,000 -- approximately half of which was paid out as a bonus before the Grey Cup to beat the salary cap.
Stegall said all along that his decision would be based solely on what was best for his wife Darlene and two-year-old son Chase, who were with him for yesterday's press conference.
Darlene and Chase live year-round at the Stegall home in Atlanta, where Darlene runs her own business. Stegall's mom, Betty, has agreed to live in Atlanta during football season again next summer to help out with Chase, so Stegall is back.
He would not have returned, however, if he didn't believe the Bombers have a legitimate shot at winning a Grey Cup, which is something they haven't accomplished since No. 85 joined the club in 1995.
"The team is in the right direction to make something happen," said Stegall, a 2006 CFL all-star who finished fourth in the league with 1,269 receiving yards. "I'm not just talking about making the playoffs. I'm not just talking about having a home playoff game. I'm talking about winning the Grey Cup.
"It's time for a Grey Cup to come back to Winnipeg."
Turtle Man's return also means he will certainly break the CFL's touchdown record of 137, which is currently shared by George Reed and Mike Pringle. Stegall needs only two scores to become the three-down league's touchdown king.
All Stegall really wants, however, is that elusive Grey Cup ring. Head coach Doug Berry and defensive tackle Doug Brown believe just having Stegall in the locker-room next summer will go a long way in helping a Bombers squad that appears destined to improve on its 9-9 record from 2006.
"Every fan in the CFL understands what Milt's contributions are, in terms of his numbers," Berry said. "What they don't know is what he means to me, having him here in this locker-room."
Added Brown: "I've played with some pretty outstanding athletes both in the CFL and the NFL, but in terms of just putting all the qualities of the consummate professional into one person, Milt's quite the shining example."