September 28, 2012

Stephen: Armstead ready to debut for Stampeders

One of the tiniest fraternities in the Canadian Football League family just received a boost.

The active group of still-playing Ottawa Renegades grew by one this week, when the Calgary Stampeders activated receiver/returner Jason Armstead.

What a Journey

In nine seasons with seven different teams, Armstead has made has mastered the art of the return game, returning 723 kicks and punts for 9,728 yards and six touchdowns.

Armstead played two seasons for the now-defunct club.  Those two seasons marked his first stop in the CFL, but since then he has also suited up for Saskatchewan, Hamilton, Montreal, Winnipeg and Edmonton.

“Let’s see…there’s KJ (Edmonton quarterback Kerry Joseph), Obby (Khan, current Stampeder teammate), Kyries Hebert, Korey Banks and myself,” said Armstead after a recent Calgary practice.

“And apologies to anyone else I may have forgotten.”

But Armstead is in Calgary to do more than act as a league historical resource.  The Stampeders desperately needed a returner, following injuries to Larry Taylor and LaMarcus Coker.  Coker, who was filling in for Taylor, was placed on the nine-game injured list following last week’s outing against the Roughriders.  He injured his hamstring while exploding up field.

The game also has a large impact on the West Division standings.  With a victory, Calgary would capture the season series against the Eskimos.  

The Stampeders have already clinched the season series against Saskatchewan, so a victory could go a long way if the Stamps intend on catching the first-place BC Lions.

However, the Stampeders have to know their first two victories against the Eskimos this season came down t o last-play field goals.  With a small twist in fortune, Calgary’s 7-5 record could very well be 5-7.  

Those close losses are not achievements Eskimos coach Kavis Reed takes any comfort in.

“There are no consolation prizes in football,” said Reed, who will give rookie quarterback Matt Nichols his first start this week.

“We have to look critically at the things that caused us not to win the football game.”

Nichols will be squaring off against veteran Calgary quarterback Kevin Glenn.  Glenn nursed a headache coming out of the Saskatchewan game, but was pronounced fit to play the very next day. 
However, had Glenn not been ready to play, Calgary would have been forced to start rookie quarterback Bo-Levi Mitchell.  

Ironically enough, Mitchell actually succeeded Nichols at Eastern Washington University.

Calgary will have a familiar quarterback on the sidelines for the game.  Drew Tate, out of action since July 7, will act as the number three quarterback.  Tate underwent surgery to repair an injury to his left, non-throwing shoulder in mid-July.

“Drew’s done an excellent job at working since the operation,” noted Calgary General Manager and Coach John Hufnagel.

“I’m going to ease him into it.  Drew is going to be the number three guy and he can stand on the sidelines with me.”

The game with Edmonton will also mark the debut of rookie defensive lineman Michael Stover.  Stover was a late release in training camp but was brought back due to an injury to Demonte Bolden.  The Stampeders will also have slotback Jabari Arthur on the roster.

Arthur, a first round Calgary pick in 2007, has struggled to stay healthy, so will be looking to make the most of his new-found opportunity.