Bruised Armour speaks of hurt pride

Stamp laments missing big win
Vicki Hall, Calgary Herald
Published: Sunday, October 26, 2008

JoJuan Armour gingerly took off his sunglasses and took his place next to quarter- back Henry Burris on picture day for the Calgary Stampeders.

His right eye is bruised. His nose is badly swollen.

Perhaps even broken? "I don't know," he said after the final flashbulb popped and the men in red slowly dispersed to enjoy a rare afternoon off.

"I'm good." The black eye and puffy beak are visible evidence of his involvement in a physical altercation last Tuesday night in Calgary.

But the 32-year-old said the physical pain is nothing compared to the agony of missing Friday's 28-17 Canadian Football League road victory in Hamilton.

"People who love the game will understand how much it hurts," he said. "It's more emotional than anything else." Armour stayed home in Calgary to serve a one-game suspension handed down by general manager and head coach John Hufnagel.

"More than anything, my feelings are hurt," Armour said. "I couldn't participate, and it hurts, because we're so close to the goal.

"I've been a part of the team. A captain of the team.'' Details of the altercation are sketchy, and Armour would prefer it remain that way. He politely declined comment on the explanation offered up by one of his former teammates last week in Hamilton.

According to that version of events, Armour jumped in to break up things when he saw a man attacking his female companion.

"Honestly, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time," Armour said. "But a smarter person wouldn't have been in that situation.

"The story isn't important. What's important is that we clinched the West, and I missed it. The biggest game of my professional career."

The biggest game of his professional career is actually set for Nov. 15 when the Stampeders host the West Final at McMahon Stadium.

With a victory, the Stamps can advance to the Grey Cup championship for the first time since 2001.

As for Armour's playing status, Hufnagel says the punishing linebacker has served his punishment. In the eyes of management, the incident is history.

"I had a chance to speak with JoJuan and he is genuinely sorry for putting himself and the team in a bad situation," Hufnagel said Saturday. "He apologized and wants to move forward.

"And that's what we're doing."

This isn't the first time Armour's name has appeared in headlines related to his life outside of football. In January 2007, police charged the six-foot, 220-pounder with resisting arrest in connection with a fight and stabbing outside a drinking establishment in his home town of Toledo, Ohio.

But Armour wants Stampeder fans to know he's a solid individual, both on and off the gridiron.

"I've never been an instigator," he said. "I've never been a troublemaker.

"More than anything, I'm sorry I let (the fans ) down by my absence. But I'm thankful we have guys on our team who stepped up and played well."

Armour hopes to make it up to the fans, and his teammates, by dominating when it counts in the West Final.

The Miami of Ohio product played five seasons in the National Football League before joining the B.C. Lions in 2004. He spent two years with B.C., and then two with Hamilton before signing with Calgary as a free agent this year.

In his first season as a Stampeder, Armour has 54 tackles, four sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery.

"We expect to win it all," he said. "That's what our goal is. And now, the stars are lined up for us to do that."

In a show of support, injured quarterback Dave Dickenson walked over to Armour Saturday as the veteran linebacker adjusted his sunglasses and readied himself to speak with reporters.

"You OK?" Dickenson asked, giving Armour a friendly tap on the shoulder.

Armour nodded. And grinned.

"My teammates love me," he said. "I got a million calls after the game, a million texts.

"I wish I could have been there with them."

vhall@theherald.canwest.com