No tank in these Esks

Eskimos defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall has a few chuckles with Kelvin Kinney as the team...

Eskimos defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall has a few chuckles with Kelvin Kinney as the team prepares for its big game against Montreal on Monday. (Edmonton Sun/Perry Mah)

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

It's not deja vu all over again.

In fact, it's not even close if you ask future Hall of Fame running back Mike Pringle.

Comparing the defending the Grey Cup-champion Edmonton Eskimos to the 2001 edition of the Montreal Alouettes is akin to comparing apples and oranges, he says.

After racing out to a 9-2-0 start that season, the Als went into a nose-dive and never recovered. Montreal lost its last seven regular season games and were ploughed under by Hamilton in the Eastern Division semifinal.

The Esks didn't come anywhere near a 9-2-0 record to start the year but could very easily lose their last six regular season games if the current tailspin continues.

Following their most recent setback, the 7-8-0 Esks are riding a three-game losing streak which puts them halfway there.

NO ROLLING OVER

With Montreal next up on the docket, the champs have no intention of rolling over. Waving an Als jersey in the Esks room is like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

"We know the situation we're in," said Pringle. "We know the situation we put ourselves in. To this point, we haven't been a very good football team.

"But nobody in this locker-room is tanking the season. Nobody is giving up. Nobody in this locker-room feels that we can't get to and achieve our ultimate goal and that's to get back to the Grey Cup."

The Montreal squad Pringle played on three seasons ago wasn't so inclined. Decimated by injury over the final third of the season, Montreal went into self-destruct mode.

There was plenty of finger pointing, an endless supply of infighting not to mention cancers growing in all corners of the Montreal locker room.

Head coach Rod Rust was sacked and replaced by GM Jim Popp. And the team that couldn't win for Rust clearly decided it wasn't going to play for Popp.

"We started out gangbusters, a rash of injuries and for whatever reason we just lost the rest of our games," Pringle recalled.

"The difference between the two instances is I think guys (in Montreal) tanked the season. I think some of the coaches tanked the season and gave up.

"This is not the situation here. Nobody has given up. Nobody has taken their eye off what we want to accomplish. We know the situation and we have a three-game season."

STARK CONTRASTS

What's happening in the Esks locker-room these days is the antithesis of what transpired during the Als' death spiral, according to Danny Maciocia, Montreal's offensive co-ordinator the year of the great swoon.

Maciocia doesn't see any signs of that happening on or off the field with the Esks.

"If anybody is going to tank it, they might as well let me know, too, so I don't have to worry about waking up early in the morning and coming to work," said Maciocia.

And while there are stark contrasts between the teams, there is a common thread between the '01 Montreal club and the slumping Esks.

"Do we have people who are unhappy here?," Maciocia wondered before answering his own question. "Yes, we do. And you're talking to one of them.

"The reason why is we're not winning."

Monday's matinee versus Montreal might be just what the doctor ordered for the ailing Esks.

Don Matthews and his 12-2-0 Als would be hard-pressed to win any sort of popularity contest in the Edmonton locker- room.

Veteran slotback Terry Vaughn won't vote for Matthews or his charges.

And Vaughn certainly wasn't talking like a guy who is content to play out the string.

"The good thing about playing Montreal is that, personally, we don't like 'em," said Vaughn, who needs 130 yards receiving to hit the 1,000-yard plateau for a CFL-record 10th consecutive season.

"It'll be a very easy ball game to get up for. They're a bunch of cocky guys and they do some good things over there and they have some good players. We'll have to bring our A-game."

But an A-game isn't all the Esks need at this point, says Pringle, who figures the Green and Gold can repeat as champs if they can hang onto a berth in the post-season.

"We told everybody if you don't have a sense of urgency, please leave and don't come back to work," he said.

"We have to be pretty damn near close to perfect. Nobody can afford to have a let-down, make a mental error or make a mistake."


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