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CALGARY — On the eve of their 2010 training camp kicking off Sunday morning, the Calgary Stampeders have been dealt another roster challenge by a retiring player.
And this one came shockingly out of the blue for coach and general manager John Hufnagel on Friday before the final session of rookie camp.
As he came back to his office from lunch, he discovered offensive lineman Jesse Newman waiting for him. And Newman told him the bad news — he was retiring, for personal reasons.
“The young man was not a happy camper when he was telling me,” said Hufnagel. “He was very torn. It wasn’t like it was water off a duck’s back. He had personal reasons to retire. I tried to discover them so that I could maybe be of some assistance, but he wasn’t budging. So I don’t know any more than that, and I have to respect those types of decisions.”
Newman was not available for comment.
The 27-year-old Powell River, B.C., product was selected third overall out of Louisiana-Lafayette by the Stampeders in the 2008 Canadian Football League draft, and took over the starting left guard position early in the year after being hurt in training camp.
Ironically, his fellow rookie offensive line starter from the 2008 season — No. 2 overall draft choice Dimitri Tsoumpas — also is gone; he signed a deal with the Miami Dolphins in January.
“I was looking forward to Jesse participating in this training camp, which would have been the first training camp he participated in (Newman also was hurt before last year’s training camp, and didn’t start until Week 2) and make the strides that I expected from him and the strides he expected of himself,” said Hufnagel. “And then he would be in my office midway through the season negotiating a long-term deal. We had that discussion in the off-season. But it appears it’s not going to work out that way.”
Now, the Stamps have to find a replacement, and the logical candidates would appear to be Tim O’Neill and Godfrey Ellis. O’Neill started in Newman’s place when he was injured last year and did a solid job, while Ellis also has game experience with the Stamps.
Newman will be placed on the retired list, meaning the Stamps retain his rights should his personal situation change.
“I’m not pleased about the situation,” said Hufnagel. “But we need to deal with it and we’ll move on. I still have veteran players. I still have good young players. And they will get the job done.”
Newman joins a list of off-season retirements that includes offensive linemen Jeff Pilon and John Comiskey (who signed as a free agent in December but changed his mind because of a knee injury), receiver Brett Ralph, receiver/returner Markus Howell and defensive lineman Jim Davis.
So is Hufnagel feeling just a bit snake-bitten?
“No,” he said with a wry smile. “But I am feeling challenged.”