BURRIS’S NEW GUARD
J’Micheal Deane steps in to Stamps’ O-line
J’Micheal Deane has received a crash course in the Canadian Football League, courtesy of Dimitri Tsoumpas’s hamstring.
The 25-year-old Michigan State product arrived in Calgary for his first professional training camp expecting to learn the ropes along with his fellow rookies.
Instead, wi t h Tsoumpas missing mostoftrainingcamp with that aforementioned hammy injury, Deane has been installed as the first-team right guard ever since, and will likely start there in Friday’s pre-season finale at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton ( 7p.m.,QR77 Radio, TSN2). “If we needed to play J’Micheal Deane early (in the season), I would be comfortable,” said Stamps coachandGMJohnHufnagelonMonday. “As much as I was my first year here with the two young players we drafted at that time.”
Those two players, in 2008, happened to be Tsoumpas and fellow rookie Jessie Newman, who both started for the Stamps in the Grey Cup victory in Montreal.
Ironically, Tsoumpas got his starting spot in much the same fashion as Deane — veteran Bobby Singh failed his physical before training camp started in 2008, and another veteran, Derek Armstrong, also got hurt, leaving Tsoumpas as the only candidate. He took the job and never gave it up. And understand: he hasn’t given it up this time around. Once the hamstring heals, he’ll be back in the starting lineup as the de facto leader of a young offensive line. But in the meantime, Deane — a third-round pick by the Stamps in 2010 — will have gained invaluable experience.
“It definitely helped with my learning,” he nodded. “You get in there with the older guys, and it’s like you have to learn a lot faster. And having them around, pushing you, helping you out, is really good for me. You always have to stay in the playbook so that you know exactly what you’re doing. Especially when you’re playing with the first team, because they all know what they’re doing. So you can’t fall behind.”
Deane hasn’t done that at all. In fact, Hufnagel has been pleasantly surprised by Deane’s athleticism (based on what he’d seen in Michigan State highlight reels), which opens the door to the possibility that Deane could get a look at right tackle — the position he played with the Spartans last season — once Tsoumpas returns.
What Hufnagel has liked best, though, has been Deane’s continued progress, and the native Albertan, who moved to Toronto as a teen, speaks like a man with plenty to prove.
“I mean, there’s always more to do,” he said. “To say that I’ve done enough, that means I’m talking like I’ve made it. And you can’t get comfortable. I feel like I always have to improve, every day.”
One of the benefits of moving to Calgary has been spending time with his family. His dad, Art, lives here as does his half-brother and half-sister. “It’s been pretty cool,” said Deane. “Just last night, we celebrated Father’s Day together. The last time we did that? Wow, I couldn’t even tell you, it’s been so long. My brother, sister and I all went to my dad’s house and we sat down, had dinner, talked — it was a great old family time. I mean, it’s like I’m playing at home. It’s definitely made the transition easier because I always have somebody to talk to.”
Tsoumpas took some limited reps in practice on Monday, as the Stamps continue to assess whether he’ll be ready for Friday’s game in Edmonton, or, barring that, the July 1 regularseason opener against Toronto.
Deane, meanwhile, will continue to be a sponge, soaking up everything he can during Tsoumpas’s absence.
“I still have a long way to go, you know,” he said. “I still have lot to learn. But I’m enjoying every minute of it.”