Meeting a last resort

Edmonton Eskimos' defence huddle on the field at Clarke Park during practice on Tuesday. (Edmonton...

Edmonton Eskimos' defence huddle on the field at Clarke Park during practice on Tuesday. (Edmonton Sun/Perry Mah)

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

The coaches said all they could say.

So the players took it upon themselves.

On Monday Edmonton Eskimos middle linebacker A.J. Gass called a players-only meeting.

Yesterday they went back to work, looking to salvage what's left of the season trying to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

"We're obviously not playing at the level that we want to play at and there were some things that needed to be said just to make sure we're all on the same page," Gass said. "I think we weren't all at the same page at this time of the year and I think now that we are."

At 4-9 things are desperate for the Eskimos. With five games left in the season and six points back of the final playoff spot in the West a win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders Saturday is paramount.

That's why the meeting was called.

"It's hard to gauge when it's the appropriate time to do certain things," Gass said. "In my opinion, these things are of last resort, that's why we waited so long."

"We had this same type of meeting last year and we went on to win the Grey Cup," said veteran receiver Mookie Mitchell. "It was just one of those meetings where we wanted to see where everybody's head was at."

Whether the meeting was successful won't be determined until the team takes the field against the Roughriders.

With two games left against Saskatchewan, the Eskimos need to win both and hope to make up another one along the way in order to earn a playoff spot.

"I think some good will come out of the meeting," said Mitchell. "It just gave guys an opportunity to just voice their opinion, the ones who have been holding things in all season, it gave them a chance to voice their opinion and say what was on their mind."

The players would not comment exactly what was said at the meeting. However, the form gave players an opportunity to air grievances without the coaches in the room.

"There wasn't a lot of bickering, there wasn't a lot of guys pointing fingers and stuff like that," said rookie defensive end Adam Braidwood. "Anytime you can go in there and get some constructive criticism and really get an opportunity to reflect on the season, I think it'll help for sure."

If anything, the meeting allowed veteran players the chance to express to the rookies what it really means to wear an Eskimo uniform.

At jeopardy is a 34-year playoff streak.

"That factors in and we voiced it to the younger guys here, the guys that didn't understand that," Mitchell said.

"When I first got here I didn't understand the streak was that long. But we wanted to let those younger guys know how important that is to this city, how important that is to this community.

"There is nothing we can do about it, but just go out and try to win games."

Their inability to win games - particularly the close ones - has the coaching staff on the hot-seat, regardless of the fact the Eskimos have been in three of the last four Grey Cup games and won two of them.

"From the players standpoint, we wanted to let our coaching staff know that we're still behind them, we still believe in each other, lets just do this thing together," Mitchell said. "Some of the guys voiced their opinion to Danny (Maciocia) to say we're behind him. He didn't do this on his own. He hasn't gone out there and taken one snap, caught one pass or ran down on special teams.

"We all know that this is a collective group and the reason why the season is the way it is because of us as a whole. If one goes down, we all go down."


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