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Stampeders close to giving Mitchell the green light to start against Roughriders

09/30/2014 07:11 EDT | Updated 11/30/2014 05:59 EST
CALGARY - Barring a setback in practice this week, Bo Levi Mitchell is expected to be the starting quarterback for the Calgary Stampeders on Friday against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

After watching Mitchell navigate the wet McMahon Stadium turf in Tuesday's practice, Stampeders head coach John Hufnagel was closer to giving Mitchell the green light to return to game action.

Mitchell sat out Calgary's last two games with a sprained left ankle and stretched knee ligament suffered in the fourth quarter Sept. 13 against Toronto.

"Not 100 per cent, but it looks good that he'll be playing the game," Hufnagel said. "He looked good out there today. I'm not trying to hide anything. I just want to have one more day to make sure he is ready to go.

"He didn't have a setback today and that was the only thing I was concerned about and he was too. The turf was a little slippery, he did some movement on it and had no pain in either the ankle or the knee, so he's ready to go."

Calgary owns the best record in the CFL and tops the West Division at 11-2. Saskatchewan and the Edmonton Eskimos are tied for second at 9-4.

Friday's game is the first meeting this season between Calgary and the defending Grey Cup champions. The Stampeders went 14-4 last season, but were upset at home in the West Division final by the Roughriders.

The Stampeders can clinch a playoff berth with a victory Friday, although a loss by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (6-7) to Ottawa in the earlier game that day would also secure a playoff berth for Calgary.

Stampeder running back Jon Cornish was named the CFL's Canadian player of the week Tuesday. He rushed for 156 yards Saturday in a 14-7 win over the B.C. Lions.

The CFL's Most Outstanding Player and leading rusher in 2013 has been limited to six games because of injuries this season, yet ranks second in rushing yards with 743.

Returner Jock Sanders was named the league's top special teams player of the week with 156 return yards versus the Lions. Sanders is not expected to play in Regina because of an ankle injury.

Mitchell owned the CFL's highest quarterback efficiency rating at 100.5 per cent before he was tackled on a four-yard run by Toronto's Shea Emry and went down awkwardly on his left leg.

Mitchell said he and Stampeders athletic therapist Mike Gudmundson have been aggressively rehabilitating his leg since then with treatments starting as early as 5:30 a.m.

Mitchell dressed as Calgary's No. 3 on Saturday, but didn't play. He performed footwork drills and took first-team reps in pouring rain Tuesday.

"There were no setbacks today so that was big for us," Mitchell said. "It's what the coach wanted to see. It's what I wanted to see.

"I'm going to keep pushing it during the week to make sure I can find every possible angle I can twist, tweak my knee to make sure it's good. Right now, as it stands, I'm ready to go and ready to lead these guys into battle and see where it goes."

The Stampeders have a bye week after Friday's game and won't play again until Oct. 18 in Winnipeg.

Mitchell said there was discussion about delaying his return for the extra healing time, but Hufnagel wants the 24-year-old Texan back in the game if he's able to play.

"We have nothing accomplished yet," Hufnagel said. "We haven't gotten a playoff spot yet. I would like to get home-field advantage. I would like to finish in first place and we've got a lot of football left against a lot of very strong football teams.

"Every game is important, equally important. Whether it was the quarterback position or any position on the team, if they're ready to play, they play."

When Mitchell went down in the fourth quarter, Drew Tate completed the comeback against Toronto going 6-for-6 for 74 yards in passing and a pair of touchdown throws in a 40-33 victory.

Calgary then went 1-1 in Mitchell's absence. Tate's completion rate was 51 per cent in his first two starts this season. The 29-year-old ran for a pair of touchdowns in a 31-15 loss to Montreal, but Calgary hasn't scored a touchdown in the air in two games.

Tate combined moments of brilliance with overthrows to open receivers Saturday. His throwing-arm injury in 2013 carried over into this season. It's only been recently that Tate has felt confident in his arm.

"It's not consistent, but I at last have confidence in it that I can make some throws," Tate said.

If Mitchell does play Friday, it'll be his first trip to Mosaic Stadium as the starting quarterback. The Roughriders are coming off a 24-0 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos, but that's unlikely make the stadium any quieter Friday.

"Someone did an interview right before the season and asked me what my favourite thing about football is and it's silencing a stadium," Mitchell said.

"Going into somebody else's house and somebody likes to be loud like Sask., like the Seattle Seahawks, and just hearing that stadium go silent is probably the greatest noise there is."

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