Shadow runner

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON, Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

Antonio Warren is constantly playing in the shadows.

The B.C. Lion quarterback problems this year - Dave Dickenson's health and Casey Printers's shoulder injury - are constantly put in the spotlight by fans and reporters.

It means Warren is running in the shadows in Vancouver and almost everywhere else the Leos travel to this year, getting very little media attention.

"But at the same time, he's definitely getting the attention of the players," said Edmonton Eskimos defensive end Joe Montford.

And the 29-year-old import running back deserves the attention because he is having a brilliant season.

The Lions can clinch first place in the West Division with a win tonight at Commonwealth Stadium against the second-place Eskimos - and a big part of the Leos' success can be attributed to Warren.

LEAGUE-LEADING 16 MAJORS

Nobody in the CFL has more touchdowns than him, as he's tied with Milt Stegall for the league lead with 16 majors.

"He is almost automatic when he gets down there (near the end zone)," said Edmonton head coach Danny Maciocia.

On pace to rush for 1,000 yards, Warren also has more receiving yards (683 yards) than any other running back in the loop.

Not shifty like Saskatchewan's Kenton Keith or Winnipeg's Charles Roberts, Warren is a heavier load at five-foot-ten and nearly 210 pounds.

"He is huge to their team," said Edmonton linebacker A.J. Gass.

"Actually, he is our focus going in (to the game)."

Added Montford: "We are definitely coming in a little early as a defensive line in meetings making sure that we are able to stop the run (this week)."

As usual, the Lions quarterback situation received almost all the hype earlier this week while Warren's name was barely mentioned.

But you could argue he is the most complete back in the league.

However, it isn't even a debate in Warren's mind.

"I feel I am the best running back in this league because I can do everything. I can run, I can catch and I can block," he stated yesterday.

"You got a lot of backs out here that when it comes down to second down or second and long (they have) to come out. The (team has) to put a bigger back in there to run the ball or to block.

"With me, you don't have to do that."

A MUCH DIFFERENT RESUME

Last year he topped 1,000 yards with the Lions, but only produced six TDs and had less than 300 receiving yards. It was a much different resume.

"He told me a couple of years ago when he sat out the year and didn't come back to us that he wasn't mentally ready," said B.C. centre Angus Reid.

"Last year was his first year back in a while and now he has a year behind him to really get his goals and mind right.

"When we get down to the goal line, he's punching it in.

"When we need someone to catch the ball and run with it, he's going to do it.

"When we need someone to pick up that extra blitzing linebacker, he is going to do it.

"I don't think you will find another back in the league that will do all of those things that well.

"This guy is amazing."

Facing the league's top defence in Edmonton, it should be an interesting battle.

He ran for only 22 yards but had almost 100 receiving yards on just five catches in his first visit this year to Commonwealth Stadium last month.

Round 2 is tonight.


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