I remember listening to the Jim Rome Show a few years back when UFC President Dana White was a guest. Dana White is the president of the most popular and successful mixed martial arts organization in the world which has a high level of violence. White however said this: “Professional football is the most violent sport in the world.”
Football has been called the ultimate man’s game. Players put themselves through excruciating physical and mental strain every game. The risk of injury is always a harsh reality. Players have incredible intestinal fortitude and it was display last Thursday in Winnipeg.
The Eskimos won an early battle of the unbeatens by beating the Blue Bombers 26-3.
In the fourth quarter, Fred Stamps was cutting across the middle of the end zone when after having the ball knocked away from him by a Winnipeg defender; Stamps took a hard hit to the chest from Demond Washington. Stamps lay on the turf for a few minutes before being taken off to the sidelines.
Stamps finished the game but was later taken off the field on a gurney and was taken to a Winnipeg hospital for precautionary reasons after experiencing shortness of breath. He was released from hospital and was back in Edmonton by Friday morning. Remarkably, Stamps was back on the practice field with the Eskimos on Sunday and it looks like he will play this Thursday at home against the Calgary Stampeders.
“Everything came back good, I feel healthy and ready for Calgary,” Stamps said.
Stamps merely brushed the hit itself off as just a part of the risk he takes as a receiver.
“It just came out of nowhere, I took a pretty good shot,” he said. “There are no hard feelings or anything like that. It’s football so you are going to take shots like that. I’ve took many hits over the years so nothing major.”
The hit by Washington came late after initial contact on Stamps; Washington came from a long way to hit Stamps as well resulting in a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on the play.
Stamps didn’t want to weigh-in about whether or not he thinks the CFL should step in a take action against Washington.
“I don’t know, I just leave that up to the refs and everybody else,” Stamps said. “I just feel good and ready for this big week.”
We have seen this movie before with Fred Stamps. Three years ago ironically in Winnipeg, Stamps was inadvertently kicked in the mid-section by Jonathan Hefney. Stamps would end up losing a testicle through the ordeal but under excruciating pain finished the game. He decided to hold off on additional surgery until the end of the 2011 season where he finished fourth in receiving yards.
Much of a slotback’s life is spent over the middle where the risk of taking a big hit is very high and it’s a risk that Stamps is more than willing to take.
“If you don’t want to go across the middle then you are in the wrong sport,” Stamps explained. “You are especially in the wrong position in the CFL where they have extra guys on the field. That’s what we get paid to do and that’s what we have to do.”
Last season Stamps suffered a deep bone bruise in his ankle on the second day of training camp which bothered him for the rest of the season. He hardly practiced throughout the season usually missing the first two days and seeing the field on the third day. All Stamps did was lead the CFL in receiving yards with 1,259.
Now with this most recent injury behind him, Stamps’ sole focus is now on the Calgary Stampeders in a battle of unbeaten teams, the Eskimos are at 4-0 and in first place in the Western Division while the Stampeders are 3-0 and the CFL’s only other unbeaten team.
Stamps only has 10 catches for 144 yards so far putting him at 14th in the CFL, but he doesn’t focus on his stats or on himself. He has said in the past that he would trade his personal success for team success and the Eskimos are off to their best start to a season in three years.
It’s only a matter of time before Stamps has his breakout game and has the entire CFL saying once again, “how does he do it.”
Dave Campbell has been on the Eskimos beat since 2004. He’s entering his ninth season as the Eskimo colour analyst for 630 CHED broadcasts. He also hosts The Points After Show, an openline post-game show. Follow Dave on Twitter @Dave_CHED.