Nowacki's back

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:42 AM ET

Andrew Nowacki has been waiting patiently to get back into the Edmonton Eskimos' lineup.

This weekend, the Canadian receiver will get his chance.

Nowacki is expected to take Trevor Gaylor's spot on the roster when the Eskimos travel to Regina to take on the Saskatchewan Roughriders tomorrow.

Nowacki, 25, has not played since suiting up against the Montreal Alouettes on July 28th.

"He's had a good week of practice," said Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia. "He's been held out for the last few weeks. We weren't really happy with his special teams play.

"He played such a big part on our team last year. There was so much focus put on Tony Tompkins and on the huge returns he was getting, but that was because of those huge blocks he was getting from those guys up front. (Nowacki) was one of those guys."

The Esks' punt-return game has been an area of concern this season.

Tompkins, has only averaged 5.9 yards a return this season and has not broken one for a touchdown.

Last year he averaged 12.4 yards a return and broke three for touchdowns.

Maciocia believes the lack of production is a product of the blocking up front, something Nowacki excelled at last season.

"For some strange reason that production has dropped off a little bit. But he's worked hard and he deserves the opportunity to get back into the lineup and prove what he did last year was not a fluke," Maciocia said.

"He was a pretty good special-teams player and those four of five balls that were thrown his way during the course of a football game were caught.

"Lets not forget, he was a guy that started for us as a receiver in the Grey Cup game. I know that he's got it in him and we want to see it on a week-to-week basis."

Heading into Regina, Nowacki has seven catches for 64 yards this season. Last year the native of Stone Creek, Ont., had nine catches for 158 yards.

Yesterday Nowacki practiced with the first-team punt return unit and took some reps at wide receiver.

"I'm just real anxious to get back on the field," Nowacki said. "I've been out for a little while and I'm excited to get back out there and contribute any way I can."

Nowacki was the Eskimos' fourth pick - 26th overall - in the 2004 Canadian College Draft. He played in 13 games last season, including two playoff games and the Grey Cup.

So far this year, Nowacki has played in six games.

"It's been tough watching going from the success we had last year to where we are now," Nowacki said.

"But there is nothing you can do but work hard and prepare for the next week and be ready to play the next week."

The Eskimos go into their contest against Saskatchewan having not won a game on the road all season and having not beaten the Roughriders at home since 2001.

"I'm not really sure why it's been so tough to win there, this is actually going to be my first regular-season game in Regina," Nowacki said. "I really don't know, but from what everyone else says, it's really a tough place to play."

Nowacki's insertion into the lineup frees up a non-import spot on the other side of the ball.

Yesterday Maciocia would not reveal who will be inserted into that spot.

But he did admit Jonte Buhl, Keyuo Craver and Roosevelt Williams are battling to fill two defensive back positions.

"Sometimes you have to do what's best for your football team," Maciocia said.

"I'm trying to make the special teams a little bit better and I'm trying to get more depth on defence. You have to make sure it fits."


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