Running for his job

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

It's difficult for a tailback to find the open field and look over his shoulder at the same time.

But Ron McClendon can't help but feel like he's literally running for his job, just a half step ahead of the growing list of challengers waiting to take it from him.

First, Elvis Joseph displaced McClendon from the lineup two games ago in B.C., an experiment that fizzled before it started.

Then the Esks signed former Argo Michael Jenkins, who's been in Edmonton for several days studying the playbook with one eye and McClendon's starting job with the other.

They didn't bring him into Edmonton to sit, so sometime soon he's going to get a shot.

And, sometime in the future, whether it's weeks or months, 2002 draft pick Dahrann Diedrick will have exhausted his NFL aspirations and be added to the mix, as well.

As it stands right now, McClendon is looking forward to the Labour Day game in Calgary, but has no idea if he'll be playing in it.

"It's like a box of chocolates," said McClendon, using his best Forrest Gump analogy.

"You never know if you're going to play or not. But you still have to prepare as if you're going to play.

"The only bad part about it is it takes away from your game sometimes, if you don't really know you're going to play this week."

HASN'T DECIDED YET

Head coach Danny Maciocia says he hasn't decided yet if Jenkins will get the start against Calgary.

The 5-8, 205-pound back with the Mike Pringle physique comes with great credentials, back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons in 2000 and 2001, but isn't fully up to speed with the playbook and hasn't played a regular season CFL game in over a year.

Throwing him in against the Stamps on short notice might not be in anyone's best interest.

Especially after McClendon turned in his best game of the year - 69 yards rushing and another 50 yards receiving out of the backfield - against Montreal.

"Michael is still up in the air," said Maciocia.

"There's a lot of stuff that goes with playing the tailback position, there's the running game, there's pass protection, and all the flare controls. Let's find out where Michael is at with the playbook.

"And I thought Goldie had a pretty good game last week. That's all stuff we have to take a look at before we render a decision there. We'll do whatever's best for the football team."

He admits it's not an easy call, or a pleasant one to have to make.

"This is tough," said the coach, who finds comfort in believing that there might not be a wrong answer.

"You can go either way and feel good about lining up and doing well."

How can McClendon not be looking over his shoulder?

"That's hard for me to answer," said Maciocia.

"Just don't look over your shoulder, how does that sound?

"Just go out, do what you're supposed to do and give it all you've got. If you do then you can live with yourself.

"He's done a pretty good job overall, he played really well last week and he's going to be a part of this football team."

That McClendon's last game was a relatively strong one will help his cause. "Had he not performed well, it would be pretty much a no-brainer," said Maciocia.

For his part, Jenkins says he's close to being ready.

PRETTY CONFIDENT

"Right now I'm just trying to learn the offence and make sure I can execute it," he said.

"I feel pretty confident, it just depends on whether I learn it and the coach feels comfortable putting me out there. The only thing I can control is when I step in a meeting room or on the field (and) I know everything that's going to be thrown at me."


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