The Calgary Stampeders knew this day would come eventually. They just didn’t think it would happen so fast.
“My least favourite day of the year is locker clean-out day,” offensive lineman Derek Dennis said. “You get to see your boys one last time and just kind of let the whole season come to an end.”
After their Grey Cup hopes came crashing down in a 35-14 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the team is already looking ahead to next season.
For longtime Stampeder and Grey Cup champ Brandon Smith, it means hanging up his jersey for good.
“At this point, you’re just trying to soak it in and enjoy the time being — all the guys are still in town, talking to them, getting those last hugs and handshakes in.”
For others, it’s time to start healing after a season marred by injuries.
Receiver Eric Rogers revealed he suffered a high ankle sprain, while Cordarro Law has been battling a separated shoulder.
“We missed those guys,” head coach Dave Dickenson admitted. “They were our heart and soul. Both Eric and Cordarro had such a great year. Those were guys that brought leadership, work ethic, smarts, the drive.”
Less than 24 hours after the season-ending loss, crews are ramping up Grey Cup preparations at McMahon Stadium.
While the Stamps won’t be in the game, fans could still see some of them around the Grey Cup Festival.
“I’m not going to shy away from it just because this wasn’t our year or because of the way that I performed,” Bo Levi Mitchell said. “This is the stage you love to be around.”
“It’s in the city and that’s one of the things that factored into me returning this year: having the Grey Cup here and the opportunity to compete for it.”
The Stampeders dressed a notably young team for 2019.
Dickenson says more changes will be on the way.
“We’ve got to make some tough decisions,” Dickenson noted. “There will be a lot of new faces for next year.”
“We have a lot of hurt guys and we’ll have to see whether they’ll be able to come back or not. I’m sure Huff has his work cut out for him.”
Backup quarterback Nick Arbuckle and running back Don Jackson are expected to test free agency in search of bigger minutes.
Safety Dexter McCoil will be released from the team to pursue NFL opportunities.
Standout receiver Reggie Begelton has also spurred some NFL interest.
The road to the Grey Cup continues with this Sunday’s Western and Eastern Finals.
The Edmonton Eskimos will visit the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for an 11 a.m. tilt before the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders battle at Mosaic Stadium.