Stamps' vets will be challenged
Jean Lefebvre, CanWest News Service
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2007
CALGARY -- Naturally, Tom Higgins took a low-key approach to the Calgary Stampeders' state-of-the-franchise address to the national media on Tuesday.
The Stampeders boss was almost apologetic, seeming very much like a grade-schooler who had absolutely nothing of interest to offer except for the obligatory what-I-did-this-summer recital.
"This whole off-season," he declared, "reminds me of a quote Chuck Knox, the old coach of the Buffalo Bills, used to always say: 'If what you do speaks so well, there's no reason to hear what you say.' It's very reminiscent, I think, of how our off-season has been. It's been very quiet."
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Font: ****Quiet is in the ear of the beholder, of course.
Others might argue that swinging a couple of trades, re-tooling the offensive line, overhauling the front seven, bringing in a once-highly touted quarterback prospect, adding a couple of fairly big names to the receiving contingent, changing offensive co-ordinators and making three picks in the first round of the Canadian draft actually constitutes quite a busy off-season.
Higgins, however, doesn't want anyone to confuse the hum of activity with blowing everything up and starting all over again.
"We've been a very good football team the past two seasons," he emphasized. "To win 11 games and 10 games in this competitive league is nothing to scratch at."
So what then should be made of the ebb and flow of humanity during the winter months? Chalk that up to rectifying what Higgins admits was the ruling regime's biggest failing last season.
"The first year," noted Higgins, "everybody was euphoric because we made so many changes and we gave ourselves a chance to win, but we didn't bring in the level of competition (for the follow-up season).
"Maybe the most overriding thing to allow our team to improve is to bring in a level of competition in every area that we have. That was the biggest question we had in the off-season. Why would we bring in an Akili Smith? Why would you bring in a Duncan O'Mahony? Why would you bring in Garrick Jones and Ryan Thelwell and Marc Boerigter? It's because you're looking to always improve, but you're also looking forward to having that competition."
[b]Just for starters, the brass wants Smith -- the third overall pick in the 1999 National Football League draft -- to force incumbent quarterback Henry Burris to peek over his shoulder.
"The quarterback situation is going to be a lot of fun," said Higgins. "I've liked (Smith) for a number of years and I'm not really sure why he hasn't been able to excel on the professional level, but we're going to give him every opportunity to put himself in a position to dislodge Henry from all the playing time that he has gotten."[/b]