Training camp hasn’t even opened yet and it seems the same old storyline will prevail with the Calgary Stampeders again this season.
For the past two years, the depth on the offensive line had taken hit after hit, and that continued with news breaking on Thursday morning.
Karl Lavoie, the Stampeders first-round pick in 2015, has decided to retire after two injury-plagued seasons with the team where he hardly had the chance to realize his potential.
“We were all a little surprised,” head coach Dave Dickenson said. “We feel like he could have been a long-time CFL guy. I feel bad it came to this.”
The Laval product told the Stamps of his decision two days before the draft but they couldn’t alter their strategy because of other needs they had, particularly at defensive tackle. Both Junior Turner and Quinn Smith will be out till around Labour Day recovering from injuries, so that’s why they traded up to get Randy Colling with the sixth-overall pick. The Stamps hope a combination of Colling and free-agent signing Bryan Hall can offset the loss of Turner and Smith to start the year.
Lavoie’s retirement does throw a bit of a monkey wrench into a position that has impacted both sides of the line.
When injuries hit hard to the offensive line in 2015, it was Smith who went across to help out, even finishing out the campaign as the sixth man, forgoing a chance at playing time on defence. Turner ended up playing some offence as well.
Those two players won’t be ready in an emergency situation, but the Stamps are hoping the bad luck changes at that position, although it appears to be a never-ending story.
Projected starting left guard Shane Bergman injured his knee training at home in Ontario and will be slowly worked into training camp. At least the news from Thursday is that right tackle Dan Federkeil should be ready to start camp on May 28, but even he will be eased into action after undergoing shoulder surgery during the off-season.
This is a familiar story for the Stampeders offence though, and it really hasn’t slowed them down much. Even with all the problems, they led the league in points scored and sacks allowed, although when you are protecting the league’s reigning most outstanding player in Bo Levi Mitchell, things can get a little easier.
“If you can keep the same five, you have the best chance,” Dickenson joked about his offensive line. “We’ve been working on keeping the same 10.”
If there is one saving grace it’s that the Stamps have the chance to employ an extra international on the offensive line if needed. Dickenson hopes some of the ratio flexibility they had last year can help when setting the roster early in the season until the likes of Turner and Smith can return.
There are couple of positive signs on defence though. Middle linebacker Deron Mayo is progressing from his knee injury and will be eased into training camp and has a chance of starting the regular season.
Cornerback Tommie Campbell, who was cleared of drug charges, still has to finalize some paperwork in order to get back into Canada but is expected back in Calgary around June 3. At one point, it looked like he might never return to the team, so showing up one week late to camp is at least positive news.