Stampeders' Drew Tate vows to finish every game

The Calgary Stampeders storyline to start this season is will Drew Tate's off-season mixed martial arts training give him more staying power on the field, and if not, could Kevin Glenn step into the breach and generate similar success again?

Quarterback marred by injuries last season

Calgary Stampeders quarterback Drew Tate throws the ball during the first day of training camp Sunday in Calgary. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Drew Tate doesn't question his durability, but acknowledges that others do.

What was to be Tate's first full season as the Calgary Stampeders starting quarterback was marred by injuries in 2012, starting with a separated shoulder in Week 2. Subsequent surgery and rehabilitation sidelined him for all but the final two games of the regular season.

Tate then fractured a bone near the wrist of his throwing arm in the West Division semifinal win over Saskatchewan.

Kevin Glenn, who led Calgary to nine wins during Tate's absence, started in Calgary's win over the B.C. Lions in the West Final and again in the Grey Cup loss to the Toronto Argonauts.

Yet Stampeder head coach and general manager John Hufnagel kept Tate atop his quarterback depth chart ahead of Glenn when main camp opened Sunday in pouring rain at McMahon Stadium.

So the Stampeder storyline to start this season is will Tate's off-season mixed martial arts training give him more staying power on the field, and if not, could Glenn step into the breach and generate similar success again?

"My personal goals are to finish every game I play and move the chains and don't turn the ball over," Tate said after a soggy first on-field session. "I've been playing football since 1992. It's just been the last couple of years, a couple times I've gotten hit and I haven't gotten up. Perception is reality and the perception is I haven't lasted, so that's reality."

Tate, 27, trained during the winter in Dallas with UFC 13 lightweight tournament champion Guy Mezger. Tate kickboxed, swung kettle bells and deadlifted weights. He says his torso rotation is stronger when he throws, which gives his arm natural momentum like a whip.

"That way, you're saving your arm instead of throwing all arm," he explains.

Beyond that, the jury is still out as to whether Tate's new regimen will help keep him on the field this season.

"I'll know more when I start getting hit and I'm live and in game action, recovery time and all that stuff," Tate said. "During training camp, the quarterback's not getting hit, we're not running too much. Can't tell right now."

Veteran optimism

Glenn, who turns 34 this month, believes he can still be a starting quarterback in the CFL. He says he did not ask to be traded in the off-season, nor did the Stampeders indicate to him they wanted to deal him.

"That's a sensitive situation to ask for a trade and then they don't do it. How does that affect the relationship when they don't trade you and you come back?" Glenn pointed out.

"I thought the best situation for me was coming back. I was under contract. You never take it personally on what happens. You go through the situation as is and hopefully it plays out the way you want it to."

Glenn led the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to the Grey Cup game in 2007, but wasn't able to play in it because of a broken arm he suffered in the division final.

He may not have Tate's quickness and agility, but the veteran showed during Tate's absences last season he can still get the wins. Glenn compiled 4,220 yards in passing for 25 touchdowns and a completion rate of 66.7 per cent.

Hufnagel acquired Glenn prior to last season in the trade that sent quarterback Henry Burris to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Tate was an unproven CFL starter then and the acquisition of Glenn turned out to be a brilliant insurance policy.

Helping Calgary to a 12-6 record and getting to the Grey Cup also revitalized Glenn's career.

"We had some ups and downs and weathered the storm and came through," Glenn said. "It was kind of a defining moment as far as my career was concerned."

Hufnagel believes he has two quarterbacks who can win big games, which is a competitive advantage over CFL clubs with less depth at that position. Glenn believes he can contribute a lot to Calgary's success.

"If I'm not named the starter, that doesn't mean I don't feel as though I'm a leader on this team," Glenn said. "I take a lot of responsibility just being a vet on the team, being a guy who has been in a Grey Cup, has been in the playoffs, has started for different teams and played with different guys and has a lot of experience.

"I think Coach Hufnagel sees that too. That's one of the reasons why they felt they didn't want to trade me away."

Reports out of Bombers training camp is oft-injured quarterback Buck Pierce arrived 20 pounds lighter in hopes he'll be quicker and able to dodge hits. Tate says the MMA training hasn't moved the needle on his scale. He's at his usual 195 pounds.

"I can't hold weight very much," Tate said. "My mom is a tiny, petite lady so I got those genes I think. I've always played at about 195. That's what I've been since college. I've never played at 200."

Defensive end Kevin Dixon didn't pass Saturday's physical. He was replaced on the Calgary's training camp roster by import Shawn Lemon, who played 12 regular-season games for the Edmonton Eskimos in 2012.

Import quarterback Ryan Perrilloux was to be fourth on the depth chart behind third-stringer Bo Levi Mitchell, but Perrilloux's passport problems prevented his arrival at camp. Calgary signed Saint Xavier University product Jimmy Coy as the No. 4 pivot.