Rookie beats Anthony and Akbar to the punch
By DAN TOTH, CALGARY SUN
After months of head scratching over who would replace injured linebacker George White, the Calgary Stampeders finally have their man.
Newcomer Khalid Abdullah has emerged from the training-camp pack to win the strong-side spot over second-year Stamp Cornelius Anthony and fellow 2006 free agent Hakim Akbar, who had been hampered by a hamstring injury.
Defensive co-ordinator Denny Creehan confirmed Abdullah, 27, will start in the season-opener Saturday against Edmonton.
"He's extremely comfortable in space, has spent some time as an NFL nickel and that's really what our position is," Creehan said.
"He's very fluid."
Replacing White, who is recovering quickly from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in the off-season, demands a quick athlete who can cover receivers as well as unload on running backs.
Abdullah, notes Creehan, can supply both traits and has demonstrated those abilities since moving outside earlier in camp.
"I put all the game film from the three guys -- Abdullah, Akbar and Anthony -- on cutups and I just watched them on each play (in pre-season) one after another after another," Creehan said.
"From that you could see who was the most comfortable out in space.
"(Abdullah) is actually much bigger than George -- he could play any of the four spots and that's why we're going with him (against Edmonton)."
Abdullah, younger brother to Stamps d-lineman Rahim Abdullah, said he's thrilled to earn the start in Week 1 but knows the assignment could be temporary.
White has startled the training staff with his fast recovery, is already back practising and may be just a couple of weeks away from game shape.
The job is his again when he's ready.
"It's football so you never know what each week holds," said Abdullah.
"I start this week but you don't get too excited unless you start for the whole season."
Khalid Abdullah's obvious athletic ability, the Stampeders hope, will allow him to seamlessly fill the role.
"That was my strength coming out of college, getting from Point A to Point B, changing positions and being able to shift my body weight," Abdullah said.
"When you're going in one direction, you have to be able to change directions quickly.
"I've been out of it, so I'm just excited to get back in there. I had pre-season games but when the real games roll around, it's a whole different vibe. Everybody's coming at you a little harder, from every direction."
Abdullah's first taste of CFL football came in the two pre-season contests after playing two seasons with the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals.
"This is a lot quicker but football is football," Abdullah said.