August 15, 2014

Campbell: Esks embrace week in Nation’s Capital

The Edmonton Eskimos maybe should be called the “Nomads” because that’s what they must feel like over the last couple of weeks. First not being able to practice at Commonwealth Stadium and having to instead use nearby Clarke Field because of the FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup. The team held meetings in the bowels of Clarke Field and dressing in a spot I’m not even sure of. Then jetting off to Montreal where the team won at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium for the first time in seven years beating the Alouettes 33-23. Then busing to Ottawa right after the game where the team has been stationed for the week as they will face the Ottawa REDBLACKS on Friday.

The team took a sight-seeing tour of Parliament Hill as a team-bonding exercise. On Monday it was off to work on the practice field in nearby Gatineau, Quebec where the mercury rose past 30 degrees, not to mention the humidity. Nonetheless, quarterback Mike Reilly says the team was all business during the first day of practice.
“Same old Eskimos football practice you know,” he said. “It’s been a great trip; our guys have bonded pretty tight. It’s nice to get back out here on the field. I think the mark of our team is we kind of hate days off. We need to have them and we enjoy them but when we come back the first day after a break you see the excitement and guys are ready to play football. It’s awesome and that’s what you want to see.”

Tuesday, the weather turned for the worse as 50-70mm of rain fell in the Ottawa region making practice a soggy one. At home the team would have the services of the nearby field house but no such luck this time around. Despite the adverse conditions, the Eskimos enjoyed a crisp, fast paced practice in the wet conditions which pleased head coach, Chris Jones.

“They’ve been held up in a hotel all week and you know that’s where that energy comes from is the fact that they just lay around all day long,” Jones said. “It was good to see them get out and run around. We needed to get them out of the hotel and doing some running.”

Defensive end Odell Willis wasn’t surprised by the buy in from his team.

“I mean it was either come out here and complain and end up re-starting practice or come out here and focus and be professional about it and get practice done,” Willis said. “I felt that’s what we did. You know we are out here and just having fun, it’s a long week. There’s a lot of buy in so it’s like why not, let’s get it done.”

On Wednesday the rain continued to fall in Ottawa and the Eskimos ended up cancelling practice settling for dryer confines for meetings. It’s been most impressive to watch the team operate this week. It’s not easy to be living in a hotel for a week, watching film and holding meetings in boardrooms, and practicing in an unfamiliar location in tough weather conditions. The team has held true to taking their 2014 journey with a, “one week at a time” focus.

The goal this week is to get a win over the REDBLACKS and to play a solid 60 minutes of football. By their own admission, the Eskimos offensively played well for just a half against the Alouettes and probably for three quarters defensively. Centre Brian Ramsay says their second half lull versus Montreal is unacceptable.

“I don’t know if we pulled off but I think we lost a bit of focus there,” Ramsay explained. “That’s something we are going to learn from and we sat in our meetings as a group about talked about being able to finish.”

Winning is the main thing and an ugly win beats a pretty loss anytime in the world of sports.

As the Eskimos prepare for the REDBLACKS they have more injuries to deal with. Out for the Eskimos are linebacker Eric Samuels, who suffered a serious neck injury in Montreal and is back in Edmonton undergoing further evaluation. Running back John White who rushed for 102 yards on seven carries and scored a touchdown last Friday is out this week with a hand injury. Kick-returner Noel Devine is likely out for the year with a lower-body injury and once
again the team won’t have the services of slotback Fred Stamps and linebacker J.C. Sherritt.

The injuries mean the Eskimos have to reach into their depth again. Kendial Lawrence will get the start at running back; fellow back Tyler Thomas comes on to the roster and will play for the first time since week two. Receiver Devon Bailey will see regular time in the receiving corps for the first time this season. Defensive back Alonzo Lawrence should make his CFL debut, and Otha Foster moves from the secondary to linebacker.

Defensive back Pat Watkins says he’s impressed with the way the backups or the, “two’s” have contributed for the club.

“I mean we hold our two’s to a high standard, I mean we don’t even call them two’s, you’re just next in line and we depend on you.” Watkins said. “So they understand what’s going on, they wouldn’t be here if they couldn’t do the job.”

No excuses for the 2014 edition of the Edmonton Eskimos. They have made Ottawa their home this week and seek a win on Friday to make this nomadic part of their season a successful one.