Fullback fired up

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:33 AM ET

For Mathieu Bertrand, the Eskimos Grey Cup championship last season was bittersweet.

While the Eskimos fullback was delighted his team defeated the Montreal Alouettes in the championship game, he didn't get a chance to participate in it.

Bertrand sat out with a badly sprained ankle.

That has the Chambly, Que., native anxious to get back to the championship game this year. So far he's played like he wants the chance.

"In my opinion, we have the top two fullbacks in the CFL," said Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia. "Not just because of what they do coming out of the fullback position, but what they do on special teams also.

"They do a great job of protection. They do a great job of understanding the running game. They catch their share of balls coming out of the backfield. And when they catch the ball they get up field and they lower their pads and are looking for contact."

EFFECTIVE CATCHING THE BALL

Between the two of them, Bertrand and Mike Maurer have not gained a yard rushing the football. However, they are proving to be effective catching the ball out of the backfield.

Through the first two games, Bertrand has seven receptions for 58 yards with a touchdown. Maurer has three receptions for 35 yards.

"I feel way more comfortable in the system, with my technique, making my blocks and everything," Bertrand said.

"I just want to help the team as best as I can. I think me and (Mike) Maurer are doing a great job splitting the time and working hard. I think the main thing is trying to stay healthy and taking care of my body just like I do every single day."

BERTRAND TRIMMED UP

Hard work allowed Bertrand to drop some weight from last year and gain some speed.

It's proving to be valuable both on special teams and in the backfield.

"He's lost 18 pounds," Maciocia said. "I was concerned that he wouldn't be as strong, but he is as strong as he was last year.

"And clearly he's a little bit quicker."


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