A couple of big names on the Calgary Stampeder defence are about to make their season debuts after lengthy recoveries from knee injuries.
But linebacker Deron Mayo and lineman Junior Turner expect to have to compete for their former jobs, given Calgary’s stinginess this season in allowing a league-low 145 points in seven games.
“I’d be foolish not to think that,” Mayo said Monday. “I plan on earning my spot back. Throughout my whole life, I’ve always been a hard worker and to me, it’s just another challenge.”
Mayo was Calgary’s leading tackler and defensive captain when he suffered a season-ending torn patellar tendon last Oct. 15 in a game against the Montreal Alouettes.
Turner, a Toronto native and Bishop’s University product, underwent off-season knee surgery after starting at defensive tackle in last year’s Grey Cup game.
Both men travelled long rehab roads to earn a return to the game Friday in Vancouver against the B.C. Lions.
“They’re both good players, good leaders, hard workers, guys you can count on,” Stampeder head coach Dave Dickenson said. “They’ve got to earn their playing time.”
The return of Mayo, 29, and Turner, 28, coincides with the Stampeders (5-1-1) entering a meaty section in their schedule.
Four of their next five games are against West Division opponents, including a back-to-back against the currently unbeaten Edmonton Eskimos starting Labour Day Monday.
“Just waiting until Dickie unleashes me,” Turner said. “I think after the first game, I’ll really get a feel where I’m at. I feel confident and comfortable.
“I just really want to see that first tackle, that first contact where you have bad intentions actually playing against the opposition.
“I got to get through that, get through the first game and then I think I’ll be all comfortable and all nerves put to bed.”
Mayo received guidance during his rehab from older brother Jerod, who suffered the same injury in 2014 playing for the NFL’s New England Patriots.
“It’s been like 10 months of rehab,” Mayo said. “It’s been pretty brutal, mentally, psychologically, emotionally.
“I’m glad to finally at least be out here running around with the team and be off the six-game (injured list). I’m also happy with the fact that our team’s been winning games.
“There has been times where I’ve sort of doubted how strong my knee will actually get, how fast I’ll actually run. Now I’m sort of past the point, where I know I can get back to where I was.”
Calgary is coming off a bye week while the Lions (5-3) have short prep following Sunday’s 41-8 loss on the road to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“They definitely didn’t have their best, so they’ll be ready,” Dickenson said. “Certainly they’ll be motivated.”
The Stampeders scored a combined 101 points in a pair of wins over the East Division’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argonauts prior to their bye. Dickenson hopes his team picks up where they left off.
“What happens in the bye week is you catch up on injuries and your body feels better, but you get out of your schedule and out of your rhythm,” the coach said.
“We were playing real well before the bye, so we need to get back to that.”