The switch is 'on'

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:04 AM ET

Shannon Garrett contemplated retirement before deciding to give football another season.

Turns out it was a very heads-up decision. His switch from defensive back to linebacker has been so smooth that a starting job has been pretty well sewn up. The chief rival for that spot was James Whitley, but the Edmonton Eskimos obviously feel Garrett is the go-to guy since Whitley was cut loose by the club yesterday.

"Shannon was nothing short of unbelievable in Saskatchewan," said Esks head coach Danny Maciocia.

"Year in and year out, there's always one guy that people want to pick on because of his age. If I didn't know his age and I took a look at all three guys who played the position, and we had to line up tomorrow, who would I line up with? Shannon.

"Everything we've asked him to do, he's done. We're extremely excited with the camp he's had and knowing Shannon, I don't think we'll see much of a dropoff."

The 32-year-old not only impressed against the Riders, but turned more heads yesterday when he pulled off a crafty interception against Ricky Ray in practice at Clarke Park.

Garrett won't come out and say he's locked up the job, but he certainly has the look of someone who has the winning bid.

"Training camp's not over yet. We've got a game coming (Friday) and I've still got to do the best I can do," said Garrett. "I feel I'm getting accustomed to the position.

"You don't have much time to think out there - you just have to react. The hardest thing about it is linemen coming out at you, but I'm faster than them. You have to hit them before they hit you."

GASS BACK? It seems as though middle linebacker A.J. Gass is set to return to the Esks. At least that was the vibe from Maciocia yesterday.

"Maybe if you show up tomorrow, I'll be able to tell you when A.J. Gass will show up," hinted Maciocia.

The Esks have Quincy Stewart in Gass's spot for now. Gass has missed all of camp due to his mother's death.

NEED FOR SPEED: Ray will see at least one half of Friday's game and the rest of the starting offence will likely get a similar amount of work. One guy Maciocia is eager to get a glimpse of in game conditions is veteran wideout Ed Hervey.

"I'm looking for that top-end speed that he had last year before he sustained that injury."


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