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Stampeders all-star offensive lineman Dimitri Tsoumpas announces retirement

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CALGARY - The Calgary Stampeders found out on Thursday that they will have a big hole to fill on their offensive line.

After missing most of the 2013 season with a concussion he sustained in Week 7, offensive lineman Dimitri Tsoumpas decided to call it a career and accepted a job with the Stampeders as a strength and conditioning assistant.

"We've got a wealth of experts in Calgary in regards to concussions and upon discussing with them and looking at things down the road, I figured that it was probably the best decision towards the end of the year just noticing how long it was taking to come back and heal and feel better," said the 28-year-old Edmonton native, who the Stamps selected second overall in 2008.

"Sometimes throughout your career you get little dingers here and there and you tend to bounce back from them, but this one obviously took a while."

The four-time West Division all-star and three-time Canadian Football League all-star admitted that the effects of his concussion had him worried and concerned about returning to the game he loves.

"I'm a big health and wellness guy," he said. "I don't foresee myself coming back. I kind of want to stick to my guns on this and do what's right for me in the long term."

Calgary coach and general manager John Hufnagel referred to Tsoumpas as a "great warrior" who didn't disappoint during his time with the Stamps, which included 88 regular-season games, nine playoff contests and a Grey Cup title in 2008.

"From Day 1, I was excited about having the opportunity to attain his rights from the draft," Hufnagel said. "He was dependable, reliable, very professional each and every week and was a mainstay of our offensive line. He was very physical, mentally tough, prepared himself each and every week and was an excellent football player."

While Tsoumpas will no longer use his size to open up space for the likes of Jon Cornish to run the ball, he'll now switch his focus to assisting players in dealing with and rehabilitating injuries.

"Lord knows we've had a few injuries over the years," Hufnagel said. "We're hoping that this position will not only get the players back on the field faster but also be a preventative measure."

Adamant that he won't return to play professional football, Tsoumpas didn't rule out taking up another sport.

"I'm sure I'll find something, we'll see," he said. "I'd like to stay competitive. I'm still relatively young."

After all, his friend and former teammate Jesse Lumsden retired from the CFL in 2011 to concentrate on his bobsled career and will now represent Canada at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

"Jesse's actually a good friend of mine and he's going to the Olympics right now," Tsoumpas said. "I'm also dating one of the bobsledders and she's going to the Olympics too, so if I can give a shout out to Emily Baadsvik and Jesse Lumsden, that would be great."

Tsoumpas' retirement announcement won't deter Hufnagel from his goal of re-signing as many of his players as possible before CFL free agency starts on Feb. 15.

"I had the opportunity to talk to the players during our bye week of the playoffs and basically explained to them the strategy I had going into the off-season," Hufnagel said. "They fully understand that if they were looking for the biggest paycheque, the highest paycheque, well don't waste your time talking to me because that's not how our program is set.

"We don't play the highest contracts, nor do we pay the lowest contracts. We try to get a group of people that want to be Stampeders that can compete, still be under the salary cap and put a competitive team on the field."

Receivers Maurice Price and Jabari Arthur signed back on with the Stamps in December, followed by fellow free agents Juwan Simpson, Rob Cote, Jamar Wall, Fred Bennett, Jeff Hecht and Tim St. Pierre in January.

Quarterbacks Drew Tate and Bo Levi Mitchell along with receivers Jeff Fuller and Joe West, linebacker Juwan Simpson and defensive back Keon Raymond all inked contract extensions in January to remain with the Stamps.

"I'm very pleased with how things went," Hufnagel said. "There's a reason why they're signing. I think it's a number of reasons. It's a team concept from the top to the bottom and they know that they're part of that team concept."

Hufnagel added that negotiations are still continuing with other players, while some such as receiver Anthony Parker and linebacker Malik Jackson will test their luck with free agency.

"I'm hoping to get a few more done before Feb. 15," Hufnagel said. "There are a few that either I've hit an impasse with negotiations or they'll just rather test the waters."

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