Fingering the problem

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

"Jason Maas should study other guys in the league. There are a few tricks you use when the ball gets cold and slippery. You can do different things. All legal stuff. People say Ron Lancaster used to stick his hand in a bucket of ice." - Saskatchewan head coach Danny Barrett.

So should Jason Maas stick his hand in a bucket of ice? Or his head?

As a community service, I decided to take it upon myself to talk to some of the old quarterbacks in the league on behalf of popsicle-fingered QBs.

I figure it's better to find Maas help for his failing fingers than for 38,000 fans to be giving him the finger when he leaves the field Sunday at Commonwealth Stadium.

The football is going to be cold and slippery all week at practice and most likely again Sunday when the Edmonton Eskimos play the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, with the Eskimos' streak of 32 consecutive seasons in the playoffs on the line.

Ron Lancaster says he really did stick his hands in a bucket of ice.

"Sure. I did that a lot of times. It worked. So I used it. I used to mess around with all sorts of things.

"Every year it was cold. I used to try and get my hands real cold after warm-ups. I didn't throw very well during warm-ups but I didn't care.

"The thing I learned is that once the body is real cold, the body will work like hell to heat up. It works like that with the fingers."

Lancaster offers a conspiracy theory.

"You know, the balls are supposed to be signed off by both quarterbacks. If the ball was slippery it's Jason's own fault. Both teams have to sign off on them. There's a form involved. Before the game, the home team is supposed to take a brush to the new balls. Wilson sends the brush out to all the teams. You're supposed to brush the ball to take the slipperiness off. They're too slippery when you take them out of the package. I know we have our quarterbacks sign off on them," says the Hamilton Tiger-Cats GM.

GAMES WITH THE FOOTBALLS

"Something happened Sunday. Maybe Saskatchewan was playing games with the footballs."

Tom Wilkinson says he once used "that stick-'em stuff" but once he put too much on, it stuck too much, and he threw an interception. "That's the last time I used it. Then they banned that stuff.

"No, what I used to do was real simple. I used to blow on my fingers. We had those muff type of things around the waist and I'd keep my hands in there. Then, right before I'd do the cadence I'd take my hands out and blow warm air into them. The warm air would suddenly make my fingers like they had little tacks on them.

"The warm air made them kind of sticky. It wouldn't last long. You couldn't hold on to the ball long, but I didn't like to do that anyway because, well, I didn't like getting hit.

"I don't have very big hands. Blowing on them really worked for me. That was the thing that helped me."

Jackie Parker, who played in best-of-three finals in winter weather in his days, didn't stick his hand in a bucket of ice or blow on his fingers.

"I could see how that could work. But I used to wear golf gloves. I threw spirals with that. I worked on that sometimes in the summer. With the golf gloves I could throw OK. I wouldn't know what to tell Jason, though.

A REAL TOUGH START

"He came back at the end of the game and threw well. But he had a real tough start. He didn't throw the ball well. He had real trouble throwing it. Then he came back at the end and threw well. It might be a little bit mental."

My civic duty done, I passed all of the above information on to Eskimos' offensive co-ordinator Danny Maciocia.

"That was absolutely brutal," said Maciocia of watching Maas unable to get a grip for the first two- thirds of the embarrassing loss to Saskatchewan.

"Those footballs were slick in every sense of the word. Watching the film, even Kevin Lefsrud was trying to get a grip," he said of his centre. "Those footballs were as slick as you can imagine."

Conspiracy? Saskatchewan playing games with the footballs?

"I'd hate to say that," he said.

Maciocia says before they finger Saskatchewan, the Eskimos are going to get proactive with Maas and his fingers

"We're going to sit down and see if we can help him out. I promise you, we're going to try and resolve this."

The coach isn't laughing at the idea of sticking Maas's hand in a bucket of ice.

"Last year when Jason was holding for Sean Fleming's field goals, we'd take a cold bucket of water to the field in practice and soak his hand in it. We'd already have soaked the ball in the bucket.

"We were trying to simulate a game and it worked. We didn't have one problem with Jason taking the snaps and getting the ball down for him.

"The weather isn't going to get any better. They are all scenarios we have to sit down and look at."


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