The end of their line?

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:02 AM ET

The end of the line could come in more ways than one tomorrow at McMahon Stadium.

Obviously, if the Edmonton Eskimos lose to the host Calgary Stampeders in the West semifinal, their season is over.

But a loss could also mean the end of the line for part of the offensive line.

Bruce Beaton and Chris Morris - two longtime members of the Green and Gold - could retire at the end of the year.

"That is a decision I will have to make at the end of the season," said Morris before being pressed a little harder and admitting, "I am 37 years old ... so you can do the math on that one."

Beaton said just a few weeks ago that he is 95% positive he will walk away from the sport at the end of the year.

IMPRESSIVE STRING

If this is the final playoff run, it will bring to an end a long era. Only four members of the Esks (Morris, Sean Fleming, A.J. Gass and Singor Mobley) have been in Edmonton longer than Beaton.

Morris's string is even more impressive.

Nobody on the current Edmonton roster has played more games for the Eskimos. Morris has played in a staggering 237 games in 14 years, an average of 17 tilts a season in the trench.

"When you talk about the true warriors of the game, (Morris) is one of them," said centre Kevin Lefsrud. "I have seen him play through pain that would (leave) most men in bed.

"I have heard stories of his elbow being dislocated and he was out playing barely having it taped up because he wanted range of motion. The guy is crazy."

The list of injuries is long, almost comical in length.

"I had a herniated disk in my back ... a broken hand, bone spur in my ankle and I have had like eight knee surgeries," said Morris. "I broke my ankle at some point along the way - I don't know when that happened ... but I never missed time."

Added Beaton, a three-time all-star: "He is definitely the toughest guy I have played with."

Beaton's pain threshold isn't too shabby either, not missing a game in his seven years in an Eskimo uniform even though he has had six knee surgeries.

However, the possibility of this being the last game or last stretch together isn't providing the motivation for tomorrow's tilt.

"There is a lot of things (being) said coming into this game," said Morris, clearly referring to the criticism being directed at the struggling offence. "This whole season in general, to tell you the truth, has been very difficult for us up front."

Fans and the media repeatedly hammered the offensive line earlier this season for the seemingly relentless pressure on quarterback Ricky Ray and the lack of a decent run game.

'ULTIMATE TEAM GAME'

The criticism has disappeared, moving elsewhere, in the last three games because Troy Davis is averaging 90 yards a game and Ray has only been sacked three times.

In fact, this line didn't give up a sack last week against Calgary's front seven, which has the most sacks in the league.

And there is no doubt Edmonton's last line of defence in front of Ray is fired up this week to match that effort and help the team. Just listening to the frustrated tone coming from Morris tells it all.

"The thing that is frustrating about the (criticism of Ray and the offence) is that people don't understand the extent to which football is a team sport," continued Morris. "Everything that happens in football, whether it is a sack or a touchdown pass, whether it is a good run or somebody stuffed in the backfield, it is 12 people (to fault or credit).

"It is the ultimate team game."

And the Grey Cup is the ultimate prize. It is also a prize that Morris and Beaton might be chasing for the final time.


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