Safety first policy

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

Standing pat just isn't his style.

Danny Maciocia has made it abundantly clear since taking over for Tom Higgins as head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos that the status quo is out. The new boss embraces change and wants meaningful competition for jobs when training camp opens May 29.

With Terry Vaughn traded to the Montreal Alouettes for William Loftus, defensive backs Jacoby Shepherd and Marcus Winn signed and linebacker Sean Spender, fullback Gilles Lezi and offensive lineman Devin Rodger cut loose in the last week, Maciocia had his fingerprints all over another move by the Esks yesterday.

With a drill yet to be run and a play yet to be called, Maciocia continued to put his stamp on the latest edition of the Esks with the signing of non-import linebacker Kelly Wiltshire, a free agent who spent the past three seasons with the Ottawa Renegades.

Chances are Maciocia isn't finished yet.

"This is one camp I don't think anybody should miss," said Maciocia. "It's going to be exciting."

Wiltshire, 32, a CFL East Division all-star in 2003 who's entering his ninth CFL season, spent two seasons with Maciocia in Montreal. That's a big reason why the native of Saint-Laurent, Que., was inked to a deal calling for two years and a one-year club option.

TOTAL PACKAGE

"The average fan only sees what a player has to offer on the field," Maciocia said. "To me, Kelly is the total package because I know what he brings off the field. I know when I turn my back in the locker-room I don't have to worry about him. I know (that) everything that comes out of his mouth is going to be positive and that he's going to be a team guy."

A linebacker by trade, Wiltshire, who led the Renegades in tackles the past two seasons, will get a look at free safety.

"He's going to compete for the free safety job," Maciocia said. "I want to stress the word 'compete.' We signed him and we think he will start for us, but he's coming to compete. That's the message I'm trying to get across before camp and that's the first conversation I'm going to have with the team. They're coming to compete."

As a non-import, Wiltshire provides Maciocia roster options in terms of the import/non-import ratio. It's also a plus that Wiltshire's got experience at linebacker, where A.J. Gass, Singor Mobley, Robert Grant and Roger Reinson are the incumbents, and at safety, where the departure of Quincy Coleman has created an opening.

QUALITY PLAYER

"He's a quality football player, but more importantly, he's extremely smart," Maciocia said. "I know he called all the defences for Ottawa last year. He was like the quarterback.

"The thing that impresses me about Kelly is that the motor is always running. He's always working, always giving 100%. It's not like you're going to get a half-assed effort out of him."

Versatility aside, the six-foot, 219-pound Wiltshire has proven durable since Toronto took him second overall from James Madison University in the 1996 Canadian College Draft. He's made 144 straight regular-season starts, 151 counting playoffs, without missing a game. Wiltshire, Grant and Loftus, who came over from Montreal for Vaughn, are the prime candidates at safety.

"You look at the last four or five years, it's been the same names," Maciocia said. "There's nothing wrong with that. We won a lot of games, but there comes a point in time where you need to make a few changes, change your identity and head in a different direction."

NEW SILKS: The CFL will unveil new jerseys for each of its teams as part of a deal with Reebok today.


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