Then there were two

New Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Khari Jones, left, and the club's starting quarterback Jason Maas...

New Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Khari Jones, left, and the club's starting quarterback Jason Maas pose for the media in the Eskimos' locker-room yesterday. (Edmonton Sun/Perry Mah)

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

The CFL quarterback carousel stopped spinning long enough for Khari Jones to step into an Edmonton Eskimos uniform yesterday.

That means the roller-coaster ride is over for the 33-year-old pivot, who landed in the unemployment line when the Calgary Stampeders signed Henry Burris.

Jones reportedly earned $375,000 last season as Calgary's starter. A nine-year CFL veteran, Jones will earn about a third of that under the terms of his one-year, plus an option, deal with the Esks.

In an effort to nip any potential quarterback controversy in the bud, rookie head coach Danny Maciocia made it crystal clear where Jones sits on the depth chart.

"Jason Maas is the starter going into training camp. There's no question about that," Maciocia said. "Khari's coming in here as the back-up. I expect them both to come in and compete."

CLEARLY AN UPGRADE

Jones as the Esks' No. 2 pivot is clearly an upgrade from Boise State product Bart Hendricks, who was Maas' backup last season.

During five campaigns with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Jones set 18 team records and tossed a CFL-leading 46 touchdown passes in 2002.

Dealt from Winnipeg to Calgary late last September, the five-foot-11, 195-pounder wasn't looking to ruffle any feathers after being introduced to the local media.

"With the weapons they have and the tradition that they have here in Edmonton, I thought it was just a perfect opportunity," said Jones, the CFL's most outstanding player in '01 and a starter in his last five campaigns.

"I've definitely learned over the years you can't worry about if you're given a job, or if you're starting or if you're not starting.

"I don't think I've ever looked at myself as a backup or anything like that. I want to go out and play, but that's up to the coaches and the coaching staff.

"I'm just here to help this team win any way I can. If Jason is out on the field, I'm going to help him. I'm sure he'll do the same for me. It's about working together."

Toronto and Hamilton also pitched Jones. In the end, the Esks prevailed. Clearly, Jones in a backup capacity is a luxury few CFL clubs can afford.

Although Maas had surgery on his throwing shoulder in early December, he's not tossing the football around yet.

By acquiring Jones, the Green and Gold could be hedging their bets against Maas being ready when training camp opens May 28. However, Maas nixed that notion.

"Right now I'm on schedule," said the incumbent starter. "They said I'd be throwing in March some time and I'd be ready to go at the end of May.

"We're not there yet, so I can't say for sure. The way I'm feeling right now and the way I'm handling my rehab, it seems like I'm going to be ready.

"I would have already liked to have started throwing and I'm not. Hopefully, before April 1 I'm throwing. That still gives me two months."

Jones was examined by the Green and Gold medical staff yesterday. The medics pronounced Jones' wonky right shoulder fit and the University of California-Davis product did likewise.

SHOULDER PROBLEM

"I had a slight shoulder problem last season but they sat me down for a few games," he said.

"I was able to finish the season. I've been throwing the ball already and everything is great. I've just been checked out here and things are good."

Like Jones, Maas has had his share of ups and downs with injuries.

Taking over from Nealon Greene as the No. 1 midway through the '01 campaign, Maas appeared to have the job locked up until sidelined by injury, which opened the door for phenom Ricky Ray.

Maas regained the starter's job following Ray's departure for the NFL. Now that Jones is in camp, Maas will have to battle to keep his job.

"I think it's good to be pushed all the time; I think that's what makes you better," Maas offered.

"I firmly believe any time I've ever been around good quarterbacks I've upped my level of play.

"You have to do that if you want to continue to play and continue to perform."


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