Gotta give Maas a hand

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

Michael Jackson and lots of mediocre minor-league middle infielders have worn a glove on their left hand for no apparent reason.

If Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Jason Maas is wearing one on his left hand Sunday afternoon, there'll be method in the madness.

A victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Commonwealth Stadium would allow the sputtering Esks to clinch a playoff position, so Maas is game for pretty much anything.

Especially after struggling to get a grip on the football until late in the Esks' 40-16 undoing at the hands of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

"The grip on a glove is awesome, that's obviously why receivers wear them," said the Esks starter as the team punched the clock yesterday to begin preparation for its final regular-season game.

"I won't throw with one on my (right) hand. I've tried it before and it just doesn't feel very comfortable to me. But on my left hand it feels fine. I'm going to try it.

"Hopefully, it gives me more tack or what have you, and go on from there."

Head coach Tom Higgins leaves nothing to chance and is the master of innovation when it comes to simulating a variety of situations.

The Esks front office hired an audio company to blast crowd noise through speakers during the team's two days of preparation for their showdown versus Saskatchewan at Taylor Field last Sunday.

A couple of seasons ago Higgins even had Maas dunking his hands in cold water and handling ice-cold footballs as he pinned the pigskin for kicker Sean Fleming during practice.

Although Maas did have his share of trouble hanging onto the football in the last game, the woes aren't related to the shoulder injury he suffered against Toronto in early August.

"Jason has experienced a lot of challenges throughout the whole year," Higgins said. "This is not injury-related. It is not anything to do with nerves or sensation.

"He has had that before. But that game had absolutely nothing to do with it. He still has bumps and bruises, but this clearly had to do with the fact it was a cold day and he did not handle the ball very well."

Despite five years of service with the Esks, Maas can count the number of games he's played in sub-zero temperatures on one hand and the tilt at Taylor Field was by far the coldest of all those games.

However, the Oregon product wasn't using the cold as an alibi. Maas also ruled out the balls as a possible cause for all the mishandling.

"We check the balls out before the game and the quarterbacks say whether those balls are good or not," he said.

"I checked the ball out before the game and those balls were fine.

"When they get into cold weather they change a little bit. The get a little bit colder and a little bit tighter, that's all. I've dealt with it in practice."

Both Maas and Higgins would like to hedge their bets for this week's game.

Wearing a glove is one option. Practising with frozen footballs is another. Maas sitting with his hands in a bucket of ice could be yet another.

Maas says that would be pushing the envelope. In fact, the solution to the problem might be on the tip of his tongue -- at least it appears to be.

"I just put a little bit more moisture on my hands and got my hands warmer, spit on them a little bit more or what have you," related Maas, who began spitting on his hands in the third quarter.

"Anyone who's lived in Edmonton knows when it gets cold your hands dry up. And when your hands dry up and the balls are cold to begin with ... I wish I would have figured it out a little sooner but I didn't."

While Maas didn't do himself any favours by mishandling the football, the pivot says getting a solid grip on the pigskin was but the tip of the iceberg against Saskatchewan.

"There were positives that came out of that for me after figuring it out in the second half," Maas said. "I wish that was the only issue because I think we could have overcome that.

"Unfortunately, I made some poor reads in that game and threw two costly picks that, I believe, contributed to that loss more so than a slippery ball."


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