All tuckered out

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 1:31 PM ET

Jason Tucker has no problem catching the pigskin - but catching a flight to Edmonton is an entirely different story.

After signing a lucrative new contract with the Eskimos late Wednesday night, Tucker was headed to Edmonton yesterday and scheduled to formally announce the deal at a news conference.

However, that plan fell apart in Salt Lake City.

"I left Dallas at eight in the morning (yesterday) and I was supposed to be in Utah at 10 a.m.," said Tucker.

"We got in early, but once we got here we had to sit on the tarmac for almost an hour because another plane was stuck.

"It is all snow and ice here and that other plane was stuck sideways.

"So, we couldn't get to our gate."

By the time airport crews pulled the other plane out of the way, it was too late for Tucker.

BUSTED ROUTE

He missed his connecting flight to Edmonton and lost any hope of keeping his date with the media.

Due to his tight schedule, he turned around and took a flight home.

"But at least I am under contract," he said before boarding a return flight to Dallas, "and that is the main thing."

And the Eskimos couldn't agree more.

"In my opinion, he's the best receiver in the CFL," said Eskimo head coach Danny Maciocia.

"He has his biggest games in big games. Take a look at the Grey Cups in 2003 and 2005. When we really needed a big play, Jason was there to deliver."

It's a two year plus an option contract. Financial details weren't released, but speculation suggests he would have garnered at least $200,000 per year on the free-agent market.

Tucker was set to reach that open market yesterday if the deal with the Eskimos hadn't been reached in the 11th hour Wednesday night.

"If they hadn't come (with a good offer) I would have talked to anybody (in the league)," explained Tucker.

"But Edmonton waited until the last minute and decided - we will give you what you want.

"So, there was no need (to go to the open market)."

MET HIS DEMANDS

The fact Edmonton met his demands for a pay raise isn't a huge surprise to the perennial all-star.

"In the back of my mind I figured they were just playing negotiation games (for the last few weeks)," said Tucker, who had been in discussions with the Eskimos since January.

"But I stayed firm to my guns and didn't change my mind on what I wanted, so I guess they finally broke down and said: 'OK, let's give it to him.'"

Teammate Mookie Mitchell is thrilled the Eskimos caved and delivered the cash to Tucker.

"Oh man, I am really excited," said Mitchell.

"To lose him would have been a big blow to our offence."

Tucker led the league in receiving last year with 1,411 yards on 89 catches.

In his four years in Edmonton since arriving from the NFL, the 29-year-old California native has averaged 1,175 receiving yards a season.

"He brings so much to this football team," continued Maciocia.

"He is like a quiet leader in the locker-room and I don't know if you can put a dollar figure on that.

"He can go a couple of games without a catch and you wouldn't notice it. And he is not one to get down or rant and rave.

"Ultimately, that spreads throughout our locker-room."

Providing his trip to Edmonton for training camp is smooth and easy, Tucker will be back in the Eskimo locker-room on May 20 when camp opens.


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