Elvis is in da house!

Elvis Joseph has won his battle with Ron McLendon to be the Esks' No. 1 tailback -- at least for...

Elvis Joseph has won his battle with Ron McLendon to be the Esks' No. 1 tailback -- at least for now. (Edmonton Sun/Perry Mah)

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

Elvis is in the backfield.

For how long remains to be seen.

With future Hall of Famer Mike Pringle calling it a career, the Edmonton Eskimos had a sizable hole in their backfield heading into training camp.

Rookie head coach Danny Maciocia was left to choose between former Jacksonville Jaguar Elvis Joseph and Tennessee Titan castoff, Ron McLendon. Joseph won the camp battle and is the Esks' starting tailback for Friday's season opener versus Ottawa, while McLendon cools his heels on the injured list.

"Joseph runs really well from tackle to tackle," offered Maciocia. "I think he can physically run over you. You have a tendency to think he's all of 220 pounds and that he can't threaten the perimeter. But he can threaten the perimeter just like he did in Winnipeg (in the pre-season finale).

"He's got great hands coming out of the back field. That's something else that we're going to try and take advantage of. When he was in Jacksonville, he did line up as a receiver at times."

McLendon joined the Esks following the NFL cuts last September and figured he'd be on the roster when the curtain went up on the 2005 season.

KIND OF A SHOCK

"It was kind of a shock, I guess," admitted McLendon yesterday. "I wasn't expecting this."

In McLendon's perfect world, both he and Joseph would be on the roster this week.

"I thought Elvis and I both had kind of a 1-2 punch going," the University of Mississippi product said. "I thought maybe we'd be on the field at the same time with Elvis at fullback and myself at tailback.

"That would be kind of like Troy Mills and John Avery. It's a numbers game and that's the way it's unfolding, so you just have to go with it."

Assuming Joseph and Mike Bradley prove an effective duo in the backfield, the 24-year-old McLendon could be the odd man out for some time to come. Then again, maybe not.

"Ron is a great scatback coming out of the backfield," said Maciocia. "Right now, we feel we're better off going with a guy like Elvis. Who knows? Maybe next week it'll change."

Still, the rule of thumb says it's easier to play yourself off the roster than it is to play your way back on.

"I'm staying in my playbook," McLendon said. "It's a week-to-week thing. You never know what might happen. I'm not look at it as I'm out and it's hard for me to get back in."

Despite getting the nod for Friday's tilt, Joseph - a complete package in Maciocia's opinion - isn't taking anything for granted.

"I know a big question mark on the offence is the running game," Joseph allowed. "We're not putting any pressure on ourselves to prove a point that we can run the ball."

At six feet, Joseph doesn't look like your prototypical bulldozer-size CFL running back.

"Looks are deceiving," Joseph smiled. "If I have to get outside, I can get outside.

WORKING HARD

"No matter what the situation is, I'm capable of doing it. I've been working hard all my career to become a complete back. I guess we'll have to see Friday."

LATE HITS: Maciocia will watch the film of today's practice and talk with the medical staff before deciding whether it'll be Jason Maas or Ricky Ray behind centre Friday night. Based on the first two days of practice, Maas looks to be the healthier of the two pivots ... Cornerback Davis Sanchez (ankle) watched yesterday's practice ... Linebacker Robert Grant, cut by the Esks earlier this month, has signed with Ottawa.


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