August 31, 2018

Biscuit Is Back

CALGARY, AB - MAY 20, 2018: The Calgary Stampeders 2018 Training Camp at McMahon on Sunday. (Photo by Candice Ward/Calgary Stampeders)

The big man with the Barry White pipes and rakishly-askew black logo-ed ballcap was back where he belonged. Even the sun, a stranger so often hereabouts lately, had come out to mark the occasion.

And so all was once again right in the Calgary Stampeders’ world.

“I bet,’’ teased DB Brandon Smith, when asked how much opposition the staff at Foothills Hospital must’ve encountered in convincing DeVone Claybrooks to surrender his fashionably-tilted signature headgear, “they had to have it surgically removed.

“I see he’s got it back on now, though.”

Down in the south end zone, the Stamps’ defensive co-ordinator, master plotter for the stingiest resistance anywhere in the land, returned to practice after a diabetes scare landed him in hospital and inoperative for Calgary’s weekend home win over Winnipeg.

“When you’re an athlete – or a former athlete – you always have reasons, explanations for everything,’’ confessed Claybrooks, who admittedly had a family history of diabetes. “I thought I was coming down with the flu ‘cause I was so tired. But they knew something was up when I left early and didn’t go to meetings.

“Then lo and behold I wasn’t really recharging, couldn’t get anything down so I took the ambulance and they told me that my sugar was 98. And that I’m fortunate, blessed enough to still be walking and that a few hours later I probably wouldn’t be here.

“It’s definitely an awakening. But the medical staff has been great and my mom (Sally)’s been here, bossing me around like I’m a two-year-old kid, making sure everything’s fine.

“Josh and Huff and Dave have been great. So I can’t complain.”

Claybrooks continues to be tested for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and his timetable for being back on the sidelines, in the thick of it, remains unknown.

“I feel like a little kid now, have to make sure I take of my body, what I take, my glucose that type of thing,’’ he conceded.

“It’s really up to me.

“I’ve got the greatest bosses in the world. Hint, hint, Dave and Huff. But it’s more about me and my body. I’ve been medically cleared. The last three days since I’ve been out (of hospital) it’s been about adjusting my level and making sure. I’ve worked out. Energy levels, how much load I can handle.

“First practice, it was great. It was fun. I enjoyed it. I’ve missed the guys.

“I’ve slimmed down a little bit. I’ve got like four abs instead of two, so there’s always a silver lining.”

In Claybrooks’ absence Saturday, linebackers’ coach Brent Monson, a 10-year man, directed things defensively for the 39-26 takedown of the Big Blue that ran Calgary’s record to a table-topping 8-1.

“Missed the guy. We all did,’’ said Monson. “I’ve learned a lot from Clay. (Calling plays) doesn’t mean too much change. We always work together, he, I, Mace and Bell. Obviously it was different for me, though, a good learning experience.

“The players play the game. If they don’t execute the calls, it doesn’t matter what you call, it could be the best call in the world, it doesn’t matter.

“So kudos to the players.”

While Claybrooks was rapt in praise of his hospital stay, there was one teensy-weensy little complaint.

“They didn’t have any TSN!” he exclaimed. “I felt like I was in Remember the Titans when the radio was on.

“I was listening to” – he pointed to AM 770’s Mark Stephen in the media scrum – “you.”

A soft shake of the head at the longtime radio voice of the Stamps, followed by a wink. “I’m like: ‘Man, they do need an upgrade …’

“But the guys played to our standard. We have a high standard around here. No matter who’s calling. No matter who’s playing.

“We have a great staff. The greatest D staff in the league. There wasn’t any drop-off. We understand the level of competition we’re facing this week. If I’m comfortable enough (to be back on the on the sidelines) I’ll do it.

“If not, we’ll do it like we did last week.”

Still, being Claybrooks-less is definitely not the same.

“He was truly missed,’’ said Smith, the longest-serving Stampeder. “We were definitely worried because we didn’t know exactly what was going on. We were all on edge. Glad to see him back, walking around, laughing, joking. He’s a big part of our team.

“A part of the family. I played with him, now I play under him. Having him around brings a lot of life and energy.

“Not hearing his voice around, it gets a bit quiet. Everyone has their own type of personality but he brings a lot of comedy, some of the foul words he uses …

“It’s always good. We definitely knew he was back today.”

Friday, the the big man with the Barry White pipes and rakishly-askew black logo-ed ballcap was back where he belonged.

“We’re like a family first here,’’ emphasized Claybrooks. “It’s so great. Every day was like a waiting list of visitors to come see me. And then Huff and Dave with the lame jokes.

“So funny.

“The most important is that you’re healthy and alive. Football is secondary to that.”