The Beat goes on

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:22 AM ET

It sounds odd to say he's back because, to see him tossing around defensive linemen, it's like the big man from Nova Scotia never left.

Considering Bruce Beaton is back in Edmonton Eskimos silks after hanging up his knee braces for the 2004 CFL season, and that he recently celebrated his 37th birthday, that's a mouthful.

Age and experience might not outdo youth and exuberance every time, but on a team that's seen Father Time catch up to several veterans in recent years, having Beaton back in the fold can't do anything but help bring the Esks' kids along.

That aside, there's something other than his 11 CFL campaigns, 194 regular -season games and three Grey Cup appearances to consider as Beaton gets ready to face the Ottawa Renegades at Commonwealth Stadium Friday. He can still bring it.

"Veteran leadership and savvy is important, but you can get that from guys who've been in the league for seven or eight years," said Beaton. "The bottom line is that you have guys who can flat-out play.

"The No. 1 job is to get it done on the field, whether it's at left tackle, defensive end or anywhere else. Everything after is a bonus. If you approach it that way and play at that level, then it's great to have the experienced guys around."

While the return of Ricky Ray has garnered most of the ink, Beaton's encore might prove to be every bit as significant.

"I'm ecstatic Beaton is back," said head coach Danny Maciocia. "He's been our best lineman at camp. He's been an all-star for many, many years. The last couple of weeks, he's looked like he never retired."

With the offensive line having lost Leo Groenewegen and Tim Prinsen to retirement since 2002, Beaton's second-coming after time off to let his knees heal and help wife Michelle raise son Samuel is timely.

"If you think you're going to be around because of experience and those other intangible things, you're making a mistake," Beaton said. "This is a high-performance business. You've got to perform. I honestly believe those are the kind of vets we have. Age is not a factor if you look at the film and see a guy out there who is dominating at his position."

Maciocia knows Beaton - as well as seemingly ageless cornerback Malcolm Frank and Chris Morris, a 13-year veteran who lines up at right tackle - can be the glue that holds teams together. "I've always believed the locker-room belongs to the players. You know with guys like Beaton and Frank you can turn your back and that if there's ever a discussion with a younger guy, they are going to step in and say, 'Listen up. This is how we do it here.' ''

Beaton, who shrank to 255 pounds last season, is again packing 300 pounds on his six-foot-five frame after a regimen that included tossing around logs, tractor tires and beer kegs at home in Kentville.

"I'm very happy with the decision to come back," said Beaton, who called Maciocia shortly after he took over from Tom Higgins in December. "A big part of that is me being able to come out and do what I've always done. That's my level of expectation. I don't expect to slip at all. I feel like I'm going to be a part of something special."


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