July 23, 2014

Stephen: Stamps must venture on without Cornish


The Calgary Stampeders have had plenty of adversity thrown at them over the last few years.

They’ve had quarterbacks go down, forcing them to start three different pivots last year. They’ve had receivers, including the durable Nik Lewis and the explosive Maurice Price among others, go down with injuries of their own.

The team basically ran out of defensive linemen at the end of last season. Somehow they persevered.

But this week in Edmonton a new challenge has been thrown their way. That challenge is to find a way to succeed without regining Canadian Football League Most Outstanding Player Jon Cornish, who was placed on the six-game injured list, meaning he is eligible to return to play on September 6 in Edmonton.

If he returns to health, the team has the option to pull him off the six-game list but that move would have some salary cap implications.

The decision to place him on the six-game list was an unexpected one for the Stampeders. Earlier in the week, Cornish indicated he was ready to play in the first place showdown in Edmonton. However, over the past weekend, the headaches returned and he was placed on the six-game list.

“We really don’t know the time length of when he will be get back on the field,” noted coach John Hufnagel after Calgary’s arrival in Edmonton.

 “We want to give Jon every opportunity to get it right and relax a little bit.  And not have the pressure of getting back on the field.”

The decision to sit Cornish for an extended period was also heartily endorsed by Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.

“I think it’s the right thing to do. I think concussions are something you don’t mess with,”added Mitchell.

“You hear from a lot vets and guys that have gone through it. They say never come back to soon.”

The decision to place Cornish on the sidelines opens the door for more regular duty from runnning back Matt Walter. Walter, the career rushing leader at the University of Calgary, has been the starting tailback in the last two games.

“We (Walter and Mitchell) always talked about playing together and coming up together,” said Mitchell, who, like Walter joined the Stampeders in 2012.

Mitchell may be concentrating on kick starting the running attack, but he is also on the cusp of a big achievement. With a win, Mitchell would tie the record for most wins at the start of a career for a quarterback. The victory would equal the career-opening mark of seven wins, held by former Stampeder quarterback Jeff Garcia.

Ironically, Mitchell spent considerable time this off-season at Garcia’s quarterback camp in California, refining his craft.

A Calgary win would give the Stamps their fourth win in as many games, their best start ince 1996. Stampeders will also be missing veteran long snapper Randy Chevrier, who is out with a leg injury. Tim St. Pierre will be taking his palce. The team will also debut corner Brandon MacDonald, who takes over from Buddy Jackson. Jackson is battling a hamstring injury.