CFL Pass

Markeith Ambles ready to receive crucial duties for Calgary Stampeders

It was disappointing for Markeith Ambles to be left off the Calgary Stampeders roster in last year’s Grey Cup.

The receiver had played a crucial role in getting the Stamps to the championship game and wanted desperately to be out on the icy field in Edmonton helping his team beat the Ottawa Redblacks and hoist the Grey Cup.

Getting dropped from the lineup by your coaches is the type of thing that can often impact a player’s relationship with the guys making those sorts of decisions, and that was something Stamps head coach Dave Dickenson was very conscious of this off-season.

But ask Ambles about it now, and it doesn’t sound like the hard feelings lingered for long.

“We talked about it. That was his decision, and it is what it is — I’m fine with it,” Ambles said. “We’ll be back (in the Grey Cup) this year, and I’ll play this year.”

That’s not a bad attitude, all things considered, and Dickenson sure didn’t sound concerned about Ambles’ attitude after the Stamps morning practice on their second day of training camp Monday.

“We talked about it, even in the meetings already, but we’re going to move forward,” Dickenson said. “You still got a nice ring out of the deal, and, ultimately, it was still a successful season.”

Ambles spent most of 2018 on the practice roster, but he was called into duty in late September after the Stamps went through a horrific stretch that saw nearly all of their American receivers suffer serious injuries.

It was entirely possible that Ambles would have never seen the field in a game last year if it hadn’t been for those injuries, but he acquitted himself well when the Stamps needed him the most.

In a run of seven games that included the Stamps’ win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Canadian Football League’s West Division Final, Ambles caught 31 passes for 347 yards, after going on a four-game touchdown streak to end the regular season.

“The thing I liked about him was his intensity,” Dickenson said. “Yards after the catch, good blocker, really tough and physical in there … good size but good twitch, as well, and moves.

“We had heard, obviously, when he came to us that we were going to need to stay on top of this guy, but I didn’t see it. He was focused in meetings and a very unselfish receiver.”

While the Stamps opted to go with more veteran experience in the Grey Cup instead of Ambles, the work he put in last year makes him one of the more interesting players to watch as the team enters training camp and looks to defend its title.

The receiving corps is going to look very different from last year’s group, and Ambles is unquestionably going to have a bigger role to play.

Marken Michel is gone, having signed with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. DaVaris Daniels – who was also left out of the lineup for the Grey Cup – signed a deal in free agency with the Edmonton Eskimos, while Chris Matthews returned to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Bakari Grant is unsigned.

That means Ambles is likely going to be one of three American receivers in the Stamps’ starting lineup in Week 1 alongside Eric Rogers and Reggie Begelton.

The Calgary coaching staff has been moving the 27-year-old around and having him play different positions in the early days of training camp, so it’s not entirely clear where he’ll be lining up when the regular season gets underway.

One thing that is obvious, though, is that Ambles has a big role to play.

“I definitely think (last year) helped me a lot,” Ambles said. “Talking to coach, they’ve got big plans for me this year, so I’m excited to see how it goes.

“I might be playing one position in training camp and pre-season, and then it depends on how the roster ends up at the end of training camp. I’ll be ready to play wherever.”