Cup cap?

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

History is not on the Edmonton Eskimos' side.

Only once in the last 24 years has a team repeated as Grey Cup champions.

But more importantly for the Eskimos, they have developed a very bad habit of having zero playoff success following a Grey Cup championship year.

Over the last 24 years, the Green and Gold have won five Grey Cups. But following the first four titles - 1982, 1987, 1993 and 2003 - in that stretch, the Esks failed to win a single playoff game the next year.

Maybe the most frustrating part of that string of failures came in 2004, when the Esks started the year in brutal fashion - losing their first three games - and never recovered, finishing at .500 and barely showing any signs of life in a dismal 14-6 loss to Saskatchewan in the semifinal.

To be blunt, the Esks suffered from a nasty Grey Cup hangover in 2004.

But the veterans on the 2006 Eskimo roster who lived through the pain of 2004 are feeling something different in this locker room this spring.

"The guys are more motivated and know what is at stake," said linebacker Singor Mobley.

The cause for a fresh feeling in the locker room can be traced all the way back to last fall after the team beat Montreal for the Grey Cup.

"Our last meeting of last year, Hugh Campbell made it clear: come back in shape," recalled receiver Ed Hervey.

"Don't sit on your butts and think about what happened."

In 2004, some players started the year out of shape.

"Before there were some key guys that... didn't realize how hard it was (to repeat) and they didn't put into the same effort going into the next year," said Hervey, remembering the rocky start two years ago.

"We relied on those guys and they didn't come to play.

"Guys are actually physically in shape (this year)."

And every player in the locker room seems to realize the critical connection between starting the season strong and having success down the stretch.

"Everybody has division games to start the season," said slotback Mookie Mitchell.

"You don't want to be 0-2 or 0-3 to start because you will be playing catch-up the rest of the season.

"It can really hinder your season.

"If you don't have the morale (after an opening few games), it can destroy your season."

So, when the Esks take the field tomorrow in Calgary for the first of back-to-back games to start the regular season with the Stampeders, Hervey believes the Green and Gold will be fired up and ready.

"When you see guys laughing - which is what you see right now in the locker room - and we're in this mood, everyone is feeling good and everyone is ready," he said.


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