Around the CFL: Stampeders' Shawn Lemon keeps dropping quarterbacks

BC Lions quarterback Vernon Adams, right, throws the ball as Calgary Stampeders defensive lineman Shawn Lemon closes in during second half CFL football action in Calgary, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)

Don’t tell Shawn Lemon he’s getting old for a pro football player.

The 34-year-old Calgary Stampeders defensive end won’t go there — and he has the stats to back up his argument.

“I have a lot more football left in me,” Lemon said over the phone after practice this week. “I take care of my body and feel fresh. I feel the same way I felt when I was 23. That’s not just me saying that. I don’t miss practices, I’m out here every day competing, I feel good.”

The 132-game CFL veteran is second in the league with 11 sacks this season, one back of Lorenzo Mauldin of the Ottawa Redblacks heading into Saturday’s home game against the Toronto Argonauts.

Lemon has 89 sacks for his career, tied for 15th in CFL history.

“I don’t consider 34 being older,” said the Akron Zips product, who also has four forced fumbles this year. “Especially with the unfortunate (fact) of us missing a COVID year. That was a whole year of my body being able to rest. Last year was a shortened season. Look at games played. Yes, I’ve been in the league for a number of years, but I’ve only played in maybe about 130 career games. It’s just doing the right things and taking care of my body.”

Despite being a consistent presence around the opposing team's quarterback — he hasn’t had fewer than eight sacks in any of the past six seasons — Lemon has bounced around the league.

The six-foot-one, 242-pound Lemon is in his second go-around with the Stampeders, the seventh organization he has been a part of north of the border — only the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Alouettes haven’t had him.

The Stamps (9-5 this year) picked him up early last season after he was released by what would turn out to be a last-place Edmonton Elks squad.

Lemon’s career transaction record makes him look a bit like the defensive version of Kevin Glenn, the ex-quarterback who was part of all nine active CFL organizations. Twice, Lemon was traded by the Toronto Argonauts to the B.C. Lions mid-season. Twice, he was cut by Edmonton.

“Your skill set is very demanding and a lot of people want your services. It’s all about how you look at it,” said Lemon, who has two Grey Cup wins (with Calgary in 2014 and Toronto in 2017). “I choose to look at it that a lot of teams wanted my services, so they paid for my services. Just take advantage of the opportunities you get."

“(It’s) most definitely a blessing,” Lemon continued. “I wouldn’t trade any opportunity I’ve had, any lesson I’ve had, any team I’ve signed with. I’ve learned something from every organization I’ve been in and it’s made me the player I am today.

"I’ve been fortunate to play for a lot of great coaches. I’ve played for Rich Stubler, I’ve played for Rick Campbell, I’ve played for Chris Jones, I’ve played for a lot of different coaches. I’m playing for (Stamps defensive co-ordinator) Brett Monson now. You just learn a lot from these coaches and put it into your own game.”

Whenever it ends — and Lemon is not putting a timeline on it — a spot in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame figures to follow.

If he gets to 95.5 sacks, he’ll tie Hall of Famer Mike Walker for 14th.

“(The Hall of Fame) is a goal of mine,” Lemon said. “Just keep producing and we’ll see what happens. I just want to take the humble approach and duck my head and keep working and let everything work itself out.”

What we liked in (and after) Week 16

• The Argonauts finally putting together a convincing win. A 45-15 victory over the Redblacks has Toronto in the driver’s seat in the East.

• The Stampeders signing quarterback Jake Maier to an extension. He looks like the real deal. It also adds intrigue to the Oct. 5 trade deadline with veteran Bo Levi Mitchell.

• Eugene Lewis’ two touchdown receptions for the Alouettes in a win over the Ticats. The veteran receiver just keeps producing.

What we didn’t like in Week 16

• The Ticats stumbling yet again late in a game. The latest setback — a 23-16 defeat in Montreal — might be too much to overcome.

• The Redblacks losing for the 21st time in 22 home games after more questionable decisions by coach Paul LaPolice.

• Lions quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. (12-of-24, 151 yards) taking a step back in a loss to Calgary after an impressive starting debut in a win against the Stampeders a week earlier.

Week 17 picks

Saskatchewan Roughriders at Winnipeg Blue Bombers (-8), Friday, 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT

The slumping Roughriders got help on the out-of-town scoreboard during their bye week as they attempt to secure a crossover playoff spot. The Bombers clinch a home playoff game with a win here. PICK: Saskatchewan

Ottawa Redblacks at B.C. Lions (-7), Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET / 7:30 p.m. PT

Short week for both teams, but the struggling Redblacks have to make the long trip west. PICK: B.C.

Montreal Alouettes (-4) at Edmonton Elks, Saturday, 4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT

Elks star receiver Kenny Lawler likely returns from injury for this one as Edmonton tries to avoid setting a CFL record with a 15th consecutive home loss. PICK: Montreal

Toronto Argonauts at Calgary Stampeders (-5.5), Saturday, 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT

Best matchup of the week with a pair of Grey Cup contenders. In their last meeting, Maier replaced Mitchell and guided the Stampeders to a 22-19 win over Toronto in August. Maier was named the starter the next week. PICK: Toronto

2022 record: 32-29

Odds from DraftKings as of Thursday.

Power rankings

1. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (12-2, Last week: 1): Coming off a bye week after a rare loss — against Hamilton of all teams.

2. Toronto Argonauts (8-5, Last week: 2): Say what you want about Argos quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, but he leads the league in passing yards.

3. Calgary Stampeders (9-5, Last week: 4): Back in the race for second in the West after a big win in Vancouver against the Lions

4. B.C. Lions (9-4, Last week: 2): Can star quarterback Nathan Rourke return from a foot injury for the playoffs?

5. Montreal Alouettes (6-7, Last week: 5): A home playoff game now seems likely. Still a chance to overtake Toronto for first in the East.

6. Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-8, Last week: 6): The Grey Cup hosts have had a season to forget, although all hope is not lost just yet.

7. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (4-10, Last week: 7): The Ticats are now 0-7 on the road. Not good.

8. Ottawa Redblacks (3-10, Last week: 8): LaPolice’s job has to be in jeopardy after another ugly home loss last week.

9. Edmonton Elks (4-10, Last week: 9): An elusive win at home against Montreal would be a big step for a rebuilding team.

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