May 15, 2018 4:50 pm
Updated: May 15, 2018 4:52 pm

Calgary Stampeders head coach confident heading into training camp despite massive off-season changes

WATCH: Despite losing several key players, Calgary Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson says he has high hopes for his team heading into the 2018 season.

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The Calgary Stampeders are about to assemble the team that will compete for a championship half a year after another heartbreaking loss in the Grey Cup.

They will also head into this season without the leadership of veterans like Josh Bell, Rob Cote and Deron Mayo who have all retired.

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“We’ve lost a lot but I’m not going to short-sell our team, I like our team,” third-year head coach Dave Dickenson said Tuesday at his pre-camp media availability.

“I think our team is ready to go, we have some good players and the staff is ready to challenge guys. You don’t really force leadership upon anybody, you either are or you aren’t. Leadership comes from within the room, meaning coaches don’t spend the time in the locker room — coming together has to come from the players.”

READ MORE: Toronto Argonauts win Grey Cup with 27-24 victory over Calgary Stampeders

The sudden retirement of Canadian quarterback Andrew Buckley last week opens the door for second-year Stampeder Ricky Stanzi to assume the back-up role under league star Bo Levi Mitchell who comes into camp healthy.

Calgary Stampeders fans will certainly have some new names to learn at running back, with the departure of Rob Cote, Jerome Messam and Roy Finch.

“I think we’re going to have a 1,000-yard rusher, I personally believe whoever earns that job is gonna have a good year,” Dickenson said. “We have a system and a style that is conducive to giving our running backs touches and getting into the game, you’re gonna be a focal point but I don’t know who it’s gonna be, kind of exciting.”

READ MORE: Calgary Stampeders Roy Finch arrested for alleged assault of Oklahoma police officer

As for Dickenson’s message to players about trying to get back to the Grey Cup for the third year in a row and avenge back to back heartbreaking losses…

“If you think you’re gonna focus on getting back to the Grey Cup and avenging a loss, you’re gonna miss out on a lot that is right in front of you and you’re not gonna get there.

“I thought we did a excellent job of that last year, just getting better and making each week important and improving and letting things fall where they fall and we did get back there and we played a solid game we just didn’t win. We’d love another opportunity but we better be short-sighted, take care of our business right now, make sure we’re ready to go in training camp.”

WATCH: Stampeders head coach says focus shouldn’t be on avenging Grey Cup loss.

The CFL does not allow full contact padded practices during the regular season. Dickenson is a firm believer in practicing with the pads you play in and will do it as much as possible during rookie and main camp.

“You gotta have your pads on to learn leverage so to me, the camp is very important to get going on that. We’ll abide by the rules in the regular season but we need to practice smart but we also need to learn how to play with them, use them and establish that physical type of mindset.”

Veteran receiver Marquay McDaniel was released by the team in the off-season but will will return as a guest coach during rookie camp.

Rookie camp starts on Thursday, with main camp getting underway three days later. The Stamps first pre-season game is June 1, hosting the BC Lions. The regular season starts on June 16, with the Stampeders hosting the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

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