Ever the optimist, Quinn Smith is excited about the challenge he’s about to take.
The toughest part is the Calgary Stampeders lineman has to watch and learn instead of getting thrown into the fire during training camp.
With a surprise retirement from Karl Lavoie and a Canadian draft that didn’t net the Stamps a top-flight lineman this spring, the team has made a move with Smith, who has spent the majority of his first three seasons on defence. He’s now permanently switching from No. 90 to 69, signifying his move over to guard.
As typical with the Stampeders offensive line, Smith has to work through an injury before he gets into action, which means he will be going through meetings and practices while trying to pick up Dave Dickenson’s extensive playbook without the benefit of live reps.
The good news is Smith’s knee is responding well to rehab after he needed surgery to repair a torn meniscus. If all goes as planned, he should be back running in early July and will try to work into the lineup after that.
The offensive line is beat up already and training camp doesn’t officially open until this Sunday. Left guard Shane Bergman is nursing a knee injury of his own, while right tackle Dan Federkeil is still working back from his shoulder issue. Right now, Brad Erdos is listed as the starter at right guard, while Spencer Wilson slots in at right tackle.
If Bergman can’t start the season, the likes of Roman Grozman or Cam Thorn would be pressed into action. With Derek Dennis off to the Roughriders through free agency, former Rider Randy Richards is listed as the starter at left tackle. When healthy, the Stamps offensive line won’t look much different from last year when they had the league’s leading rusher and allowed the fewest number of sacks.
Playing offence is nothing new to Smith, who played both sides of the ball in college and then was the emergency replacement several times, mostly in the 2015 season when injuries piled up among the offensive linemen.
By playoff time, Smith was the sixth man on the offensive line, a position he embraced despite the fact it took him away from being in a regular defensive line rotation.
Smith is looking on the bright side of the situation.
“Hopefully this extends my career and makes me a whole lot more money,” Smith said with a laugh.
In his draft year, Smith garnered plenty of interest from teams looking to convert him into an offensive lineman. The Stamps were more interested in giving him a shot on defence, so he’s happy he had the time on that side of the ball, which included getting a Grey Cup ring during his rookie campaign.
During this year’s draft, the Stamps managed to grab defensive tackle Randy Colling, which gives them a bit of flexibility to make this move. It would also help of Junior Turner returns quickly from his injury to help with the depth on that side of the ball.
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