Gassing up for holiday

DAN TOTH, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 11:21 AM ET

The Edmonton Eskimos defence, in need of a boost, is adding some Gass.

Middle linebacker A.J. Gass, out almost the entire first half of the season with a strained hamstring, is making just his second start.

The nine-year Eskimo could provide a jolt of passion to a unit that has struggled this season.

"All teams that are going to be successful thrive on emotion," said Gass, expected to start in place of Quincy Stewart.

"Emotion plays a bigger part of football than anybody realizes. You can have a good, solid team, perform your job correctly but, if you lack the emotion, you won't be able to take that extra step to become a great team.

"As long as we're executing, the emotion is going to be there and hopefully I'll be out there executing a lot. I plan on being emotional."

Gass missed training camp after the death of his mother and returned in Week 3 only to strain his hamstring, forcing him to the sidelines. He thought he could return in late July but re-injured himself in practice, setting back his rehabilitation.

"It's been a nightmare but it's behind me now, I'm back on the field ready to play and that's all that matters," said Gass.

"I'm not going in with any reservations, any doubts. I'm going in 100 percent and I'm going in to help this team any way I can."

Gass recorded 50 tackles, two QB sacks and a pair of interceptions last season while providing leadership throughout the playoffs and Grey Cup game. An added dimension to his return is a reputation for playing a nasty style of football some critics call dirty. It's an assessment Gass doesn't dismiss entirely.

"If I can be a distraction to the other team, I welcome that," Gass said.

"I go out and try to make my presence felt and sometimes that comes a little late after the whistle and sometimes in an aggressive way but it's there."

Former teammate Rahim Abdullah, in his second year with the Stamps, thinks Gass' return improves the Esks defence.

"A.J.'s a leader and a key component of that defence," Abdullah said.

"His coming back could boost that defence and get them back to where they want to be."


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