Just big talk?

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

Fresh off a 10-day break from the spotlight and about to start a critical stretch of their regular season, the Edmonton Eskimos have come out swinging.

Showing a type of emotion that hasn't been noticed this early before a game day this year, the struggling Green and Gold are sending clear and blunt messages to the rest of the league.

Led by head coach Danny Maciocia and his locker-room leaders, this team seems mentally ready to turn their disastrous 3-6 campaign around starting on Labour Day in Calgary.

"If anyone thinks they're going to see the same team that they saw the first nine games of the season, they're sadly mistaken," declared receiver Ed Hervey before the Esks returned to the practice field yesterday for the first time since self-destructing in Vancouver on Aug. 18.

"The season is not lost by any stretch of the imagination.

"Obviously we are a desperate team right now. And we are going to play well against Calgary and we are not going to make those same mistakes that we were making in the first half of the season."

Those mistakes - that led to repeated ugly losses through the first nine games - varied from mental breakdowns to missed tackles to botched assignments in the secondary and special teams.

NUMEROUS MISCUES

The numerous miscues have the Eskimos staring at their worst record at the nine-game mark in a season since 1971 and have put the franchise's record-setting streak of 34 years in the post season in jeopardy.

"A lot of people are counting us out, but we are good when our backs are against the wall," said linebacker Singor Mobley. "We play a totally different style of football."

And as the defending Grey Cup champions embark on a desperate nine-game drive to get back in the playoffs, Maciocia no longer cares about what anybody has to say outside his locker-room or his tight inner circle.

A DIFFERENT LOOK

"We have got to look at the second half a little bit differently and attack it," admitted the coach.

"And not worry about where we are in the standings. To me that is really irrelevant right now and what people are saying.

"Because all I care about is what we think and what we feel."

It's an attitude change that seems to have solidified itself over the bye week and was aided by his wife.

"Basically (my wife's) message was: 'Do what you do best and not worry about what people have to say,' " relayed Maciocia, who has been fired by many fans through the first half of the year.

"I think my wife put it best: 'What are they going to do? Take our kids away, take our home away?'

"I have been here since 2002 and I am damn proud of what we have done collectively.

"We have won a lot of football games.

"That is something of the past and we are not happy where we are right now. Let the focus be on the second half of the season."

And to start the second half with a monstrous home-and-home series with Calgary, the coach offered a simple statement: "At the end of the day either you are with us or against us.

"Pick - and if you are with us, come along for the ride because we are going to go for a little ride in the second half."


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