Defending the turf

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 1:18 PM ET

It started when quarterback Jason Maas apparently broke an unwritten rule.

It ended with A.J. Gass putting the boots to Brock Ralph for a perceived cheap shot.

The Edmonton Eskimos arrived home in a foul mood yesterday after losing 27-22 to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats the night earlier.

The game ended on an ugly note when Gass kicked Ralph after the Ticats receiver allegedly dove at Adam Braidwood's knees on the final play of the game.

"When you go after a guy's knees for no apparent reason in a non-football play, you're going to get some retaliation," said Gass.

"What Brock did was completely uncalled for. I don't care what happened leading up to that point. The game was over at that time and he didn't have to take a shot at somebody's knees."

After Ricky Ray's fumble with less than a minute to play, the Ticats took possession of the ball looking to run out the clock. But instead of getting the snap and taking a knee immediately, Maas delayed and let the clock run before going down.

It is not gesture often taken lightly.

Defences will let up in an obvious kneel-down situation, granted the quarterback takes a knee immediately. On the next down, Braidwood pancaked the Ticats quarterback.

On the following play, Ralph dove out low towards the Eskimos defensive end.

"It was one of those situations where only four seconds came off the clock on the first one," Braidwood said. "We thought we might be able to get the ball back with a couple of seconds left if he did that again. So we decided to go in there and get him.

"So I basically ran, and I ran a guy over. I don't think he took to it too kindly. So on the next play he dove right at my knees."

Considering Kelly Witshire's possible career-ending knee injury following a low block by the Stampeders' Nik Lewis, the Eskimos are sensitive about the subject.

Gass, one of the team's leaders on defence, took it upon himself to stand up for his teammate.

"That's exactly what was going on through my mind," Gass said. "You have a young guy with a promising career ahead of him. For a guy to take a cheap shot like that for no reason at all was very uncalled for.

"He (Maas) was pausing, he was pausing, so we made a push to try and stop to the clock. They took exception to the fact that we were coming hard, knowing they were going to kneel down."

Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia did not see the incident. He was already making his way across the field to congratulate his counterpart and his former quarterback.

"I was told - obviously this is from an Eskimo perspective - that Brock Ralph tried to cut Braidwood when they were taking a knee," Maciocia said. "Braidwood took exception to it and A.J. came in to help out his teammate."

The incident should provide extra motivation when the two teams meet again at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday.

There was no word yesterday whether Gass or Ralph will face any disciplinary action.

"We're right back at it facing the same team," Gass said.


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