Dickenson: trio of injured receivers to return for Calgary Stampeders

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The Calgary Stampeders didn’t sign any receivers in free agency last month, though the club still stands to get a boost at the position as Malik Henry, Clark Barnes, and Jalen Philpot are set to return from injury in 2024.

“We think all will be healthy but they weren’t small injuries, any of them. I guess probably Clark was the closest to coming back (during the 2023 season) but he had a repair in his knee,” said head coach and general manager Dave Dickenson from the CFL Combine.

“The weird thing is receivers, they’ll be back but they are required to have certain skills and twitchiness and speed and endurance. You kind of don’t see that until you get into more of a full practice session or game situation and sometimes it maybe will take a game or two to feel confidence that I’ve got my body back underneath me, but I do think all three will be there and that will make us a lot better team.”

Henry made 14 catches for 228 yards and one touchdown over three games this past season before suffering a torn Achilles against the Saskatchewan Roughriders on June 24. The 26-year-old was fresh off his first 1,000-yard season in 2022, which led to him signing a three-year contract extension to cement him as one of the team’s top players.

Dickenson has monitored the Tifton, Ga. native’s recovery closely all off-season and feels encouraged by what he’s seen.

“He’s doing everything right, he’s living in Calgary, which I like because I get to see him,” he said. “I got a new strength conditioning coach, so he’s been working with him. We have a dome now, so we’ve got some access to better areas to run, just some things that are in his advantage. I’d be surprised if he’s not ready to go and then it’s up to me to at times maybe limit him to make sure that I’m doing the smart move and not overloading him.”

Barnes made 25 catches for 234 yards and one touchdown over nine games before undergoing knee surgery after sustaining a knee injury against the B.C. Lions on Aug. 12. The Guelph product was a third-round pick in the 2023 CFL Draft and earned a starting role straight out of training camp, beating out first-round pick Cole Tucker and former NFL receiver Rysen John.

Philpot missed the entire 2023 season due to a hamstring injury he sustained while training during the off-season. The former first-round pick made 23 catches for 317 yards and three touchdowns during his rookie year in 2022. His twin brother, Tyson, was named the Most Valuable Canadian in the Grey Cup in 2023 after catching the game-winning touchdown from Cody Fajardo.

Calgary finished seventh league-wide in passing yards and passing touchdowns in 2023 despite being the only team to have the same starting quarterback for all 18 regular season games. Reggie Begelton was the only receiver to surpass the 750-yard mark, making 86 catches for 1,119 yards and five touchdowns.

The Stampeders will open the 2024 regular season on Friday, June 7 when they host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at McMahon Stadium.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.