The Calgary Stampeders plan to field a new team next year, but coach Dave Dickenson says any roster changes have nothing to do with Sunday’s heartbreaking 27-24 loss to the Toronto Argonauts in the Grey Cup.
Rather, it’s salary-cap reality that dictates the inevitable personnel shakeups in the Canadian Football League.
“There’s going to be different names on the back of jerseys,” Dickenson said Tuesday at McMahon Stadium as players cleaned out their lockers. “Hopefully, we can keep as many of these guys together as we can and get up off the ground and live on to fight another battle.”
Pending free agents include two of their four team captains _ safety Josh Bell and fullback Rob Cote.
“I’m looking into a dark abyss,” Bell, 32, said of his future. “I’m looking into the darkness without any answers.”
Running back Jerome Messam, receiver DaVaris Daniels, return ace Roy Finch, offensive lineman Dan Federkeil and defensive backs Tommie Campbell and Brandon Smith are other key pending free agents.
“I’m not sure where the priorities lie,” said Smith, “but (management) probably needs some time to let this game cool off.”
In the aftermath of another crushing result in the Grey Cup _ Cagary fell in overtime last year to the Ottawa Redblacks _ the Stamps are still smarting.
“Sick to my stomach,” said Dickenson. “Tough. I don’t know what else to say. I’m not sure I’ve been in a game like that _ and I don’t want to be in too many.”
Added Bell: “I’m speechless. I have no understanding of the feeling that I have right now or the words that could describe it.”
From Sunday’s setback at TD Place Stadium in Ottawa, three plays will haunt the Stamps:
_ Argos quarterback Ricky Ray hitting receiver DeVier Posey for a Grey Cup-record 100-yard touchdown.
_ Stamps receiver Kamar Jorden dropping the ball, allowing Cassius Vaughn to register a Grey Cup-record _ and game-tying _ 109-yard touchdown return.
_ In field-goal position _ and trailing by three points _ Stamps quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell throwing into double coverage and Matt Black making a championship-sealing interception.
Post-game, one of the hottest topics had been Jorden’s bobble _ and blunt criticism from Marquay McDaniel, who called the blunder “stupid” and “dumb.”
Jorden, to his credit, hasn’t stuck his head in the sand.
“I woke up (Monday) morning and I had over a hundred text messages, over a hundred notifications on Facebook and Twitter,” said Jorden. “I read everything _ the good and the bad. I feel like you have to embrace it. You can’t hide from it.
“The sooner I can look it in the eye and learn from it ? it’ll be the best situation for me.”
McDaniel, meanwhile, declined to soften the comments about his young teammate. But in explaining his post-game actions _ and noting that he’d not been in a good place personally after a trying season _ McDaniel broke down.
After more than a minute’s silence, he continued.
“You don’t know how many chances you get,” said McDaniel, 33. “This is my life. I’ve got brothers and nephews and nieces, but I don’t have any family of my own because this is what I love to do. I live and breathe football because I know one day it’s going to be over.”
Searching for answers, too, is the Stamps organization, which once again posted the league’s best regular-season record.
But there are no Grey Cup titles, despite back-to-back appearances.
“Life marches on, right?” said Cote. “We play a game for a living. We got to play on the biggest stage in our country for the last two years. Do I want to be doing the loser interview? No. (But) I’m very proud of what this team has done.
“We were one hell of a football team this year and you don’t want to just forget that.”