CALGARY - After losing 35-22 to the host Toronto Argonauts in the 100th Grey Cup last year, linebaker Juwan Simpson says the Calgary Stampeders expect to take the next step and become CFL champions this season.
"We're ultimately working for one goal and that's to win the Cup," said Simpson, who's entering his sixth season with the Stamps. "I'm a confident person. I think the rest of the guys are just as confident.
"Regardless of what happens, we know it's a long season. We're going to put our best foot forward week in and week out and see what happens."
Veteran quarterback Kevin Glenn, who completed 14-of-27 passes for 222 yards, no touchdowns and one interception in last year's Grey Cup game against the Argos, said he definitely wants a shot at redemption.
"Even getting there and actually losing the game, it gives you more motivation to get back and win it," Glenn said. "That's our ultimate goal, but we've got to take it one game at a time."
Glenn was thrust into the starter's role last season to compensate for starter Drew Tate's injury-plagued season. He didn't disappoint, completing 325-of-487 passes for 4,220 yards and 25 touchdown passes in the regular season. His completion rate of 66.7 per cent was the best of his 12 CFL seasons.
Although Glenn, who turned 34 on June 12, is slated to back up Tate once again to start the 2013 season, he's keeping a positive attitude and preparing as if he could be called upon for his services at any moment.
"Whatever position you're in on this team, you have to be ready to go," Glenn said. "You can't take practices off or days off in meetings and stuff. You have to prepare and prepare as if you're going to play and start. I think that’s better to do it that way. It keeps you focused during the game on helping the other guys that are playing out there."
Meanwhile, Tate wants to put last year's nightmarish season behind him. After guiding the Stamps to a 38-10 win over the Montreal Alouettes in the 2012 season opener at home, Tate dislocated his left shoulder during a Week 2 loss in Toronto.
Tate, who completed just 46-of-63 passes for 570 yards and four touchdowns, returned to play in the final two games of the regular season before fracturing a bone near the wrist of his throwing arm in Calgary's West Division semifinal win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Tate has refused to let those two major setbacks from deterring him this season.
"If you try to alter your play based on not getting hurt, you're just going to affect your game and you're not going to be playing at the highest level that you can be playing," Tate said. "You just hope that you've got somebody watching over you every time you fall and that's about it."
Whether it's Tate, Glenn or third-stringer Bo Levi Mitchell at the helm of Calgary's offence, they'll have plenty of weapons at their disposal once again this season.
"I'm certainly confident in our quarterbacks," said running back Jon Cornish, who tied for the league lead with 11 rushing touchdowns and added two others through the air.
Cornish was named the CFL's most outstanding Canadian last season after leading the league with 1,457 rushing yards, which broke Normie Kwong's 56-year-old Canadian single-season rushing record.
The Stamps also boast a talented receiving corps which will be led by veteran Nik Lewis (100 catches last year, 1,241 yards and 10 TDs), Marquay McDaniel (53 catches, 744 yards and three TDs), Maurice Price (18 catches, 405 yards and three TDs) and Joe West (24 catches, 353 yards and two TDs).
"I'm very optimistic," Tate said. "I said this before camp that I've never been on a team with as much talent at the play-making positions that we have this year. As a quarterback, you can't ask for anything more."
Rene Paredes will once again handle the field-goal kicking duties, while Rob Maver is back for his second season as Calgary's primary punter. Both Paredes and Maver were chosen as West Division and CFL all-stars last season.
When asked to identify the biggest gain in the off-season for the Stamps, head coach and general manager John Hufnagel responded by pointing to the overall speed of his defensive players during training camp and the pre-season.
"I thought overall our defence in general played fast in the two pre-season games," Hufnagel said. "I want that type of speed to continue with areas of improvement."
Simpson will be counted upon for his veteran leadership on defence as will fellow linebacker Malik Jackson, defensive backs Brandon Smith and Keon Raymond and defensive lineman Charleston Hughes.
"We've got a lot of vets returning," Simpson said. "We've got some young guys to come in and help us. I think we've got a good group of guys and I'm looking forward to actually getting out there and playing four quarters."