May 20, 2014

Hufnagel: ‘We’ll be an improved football team this year’

Adam Gagnon Staff

CALGARY — Even though they’ve won more games than any other team over the last two seasons, the Calgary Stampeders are fully aware that there’s no room for complacency in the CFL.

“You always try to improve. If you don’t, you’re going to be in trouble because every other team in the CFL has improved during the off-season,” said Stampeders head coach and GM John Hufnagel.

“We’ll be an improved football team this year.”

With Calgary’s win totals improving every year since 2011, it’s clear that Hufnagel practices what he preaches.

The veteran CFL front office man has been shrewd in recent years, seemingly completely unafraid to make bold, unexpected moves.

He used the mentality when opting to bench Joffrey Reynolds in favour of Jon Cornish in 2011.

He used the mentality again that same season when he decided to sit Henry Burris, and give Drew Tate the keys to the team’s offence.

Hufnagel then employed his shrewd ways the following season when he decided to name Tate his post-season starter, despite the fact that it was Kevin Glenn who had carried the Stamps offence to electrifying heights that season.

Simply put, Hufnagel isn’t afraid to make a tough decision. And after coming up short of the ultimate goal again in 2013, Hufnagel knows the 2014 campaign is a critical one.

“We do our thorough investigation in the off-season of evaluating what we were good at and what we weren’t good at,” he said.

“Obviously, we didn’t finish the job. We need to get better as a football team. We need to make sure that we do the fundamental things correctly in order to win football games. I outlay that each and every training camp — the important aspects of the game that we have to be very, very good at to give ourselves a chance to win games. I repeat it each and every year.”

Some changes made by Hufnagel and his staff were forced upon them unexpectedly.

Injuries to key roster players like Tate and receiver Nik Lewis required Hufnagel to lean on his accumulated and strong depth down the stretch.

Though they were both sorely missed in the locker room, Hufnagel’s troops didn’t miss a beat on the field, as they finished the season atop the standings with 14 wins.

Despite their success without the both Tate and Lewis, Hufnagel is excited to have star duo back in action in 2014.

“Drew is fine. He may have some soreness throughout training camp but guess what? Every quarterback that goes through training camp and has to throw twice a day will get a sore arm,” he said.

“All the reports I have on Nik Lewis’ leg are that he’s fine. He should be good to go. I can’t wait to see Nik, to see how (he has responded to the rehab).”

There’s no denying that the Stamps have had their fair-share of injury bad luck in recent years.

And while it’s difficult to improve said luck, the Stamps believe their new turf at McMahon Stadium will help decrease the likelihood of accidental injuries.

“The turf looks really good. I know it will be a softer surface. We did have one problem last year during training camp — a lot of players were suffering arch-sprains or arch-contusions,” he said.

“As far as other injuries, I’m hoping our string of bad luck is over and that we’ll be fairly healthy throughout the 2014 season.”
With files from Staff