Stegall back in Blue after taking pay cut

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:48 AM ET

Milt Stegall is coming back for a 14th season.

Ho-hum.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers slotback wants a ring, the team is looking good, he still has a passion for the game, his family is on board, yada, yada, yada.

Was anyone really surprised?

It's become a rite of winter, and it's likely no coincidence that Stegall's well-attended press conferences -- or in yesterday's case, a teleconference, just to spice things up a bit -- are usually held close to Groundhog Day.

"Everybody will be saying, 'If you had won the Grey Cup, would that have been it?' " Stegall said from Atlanta. "I didn't win the Grey Cup, so that's not a question that can be answered or I don't think can be asked.

"But my wife (Darlene) saw ... how much I wanted to win that game."

There was one significant difference this time around, however. There were two words being uttered that have never been heard before at a Stegall presser.

Pay cut.

The 38-year-old slotback signed a new contract for a year and an option late Wednesday night, and the decrease in pay he took -- believed to be in the $80,000 range -- just may help keep a good chunk of the team intact.

"All I can say is Milt was very aware of our situation with the cap and wanted to help us the best he could, and did," Bombers GM Brendan Taman said.

The extra money Taman will have to play with won't technically make that much of a difference, but some of Stegall's teammates say the point No. 85 made by taking a pay cut could be the best move any Bomber makes during the entire season.

HIGH-PROFILE FREE AGENTS

The Bombers have high-profile free agents Dan Goodspeed and Tom Canada to re-sign, while several other key players going into their option years are looking for raises.

"It sends a message to them, and those guys will see that and maybe not necessarily change their mind, but it may help in negotiations," said quarterback Kevin Glenn, who is one of those option-year players looking for a pay hike.

"They may feel as though, 'He did this, and other guys are doing the same thing to keep this team together, and maybe it's our turn to do the same and we'll get rewarded in the end.' "

Stegall made a reported $240,000 last season, but his new deal is believed to be in the $160,000 range. Apparently the structure of the contract will make the hit on Stegall's pocketbook seem less severe.

Taman will welcome whoever wants to go next.

"If I get that co-operation from some of his teammates -- not all of them, but some -- we'll be in fine shape," Taman said.

Fellow slotback Terrence Edwards, who is also looking for a raise this off-season, said Stegall's selflessness won't go unnoticed.

"That's just the type of guy he is," Edwards said from Georgia.

"A lot of people really won't take pay cuts to help the team out, and Milt did. You just gotta commend that, and that's just special.

"There's not too many guys who are willing to take money out of their family's pockets to help a team out. I guess the Blue Bombers have been loyal to Milt all these years, and Milt's just returning the favour."


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