Running together

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

A.J. Gass isn't hiding his excitement.

Although there are still three days remaining before kickoff in Toronto, the Eskimos' middle linebacker is jacked-up over the idea of facing Ricky Williams and John Avery in the same Argo backfield on Thanksgiving Day.

"I can't wait," said Gass, whose team desperately needs a win to keep alive any faint hope of making the playoffs for the 35th straight year.

"I think our front seven is going to show up and try to fill all the gaps and give them nowhere to run."

Argo head coach Pinball Clemons has until early Monday to set his roster, but it appears the two former first-round NFL draft picks will be together for the first time ever in real game action.

"I'm surprised it took them that long to decide to do that," cracked linebacker Singor Mobley.

But on a more serious note, there's nothing funny about the danger Williams and Avery posses.

A former Heisman trophy winner, Williams led the NFL in rushing in 2002, while Avery rushed for 1,448 yards with the Eskimos in that same year.

"They're both excellent backs," said Gass. "We're definitely going to have our hands full.

"They both can do a lot of damage if given the holes."

Linebacker coach Dan Kepley puts it in more blunt terms: "It constitutes that defensively, we have to do things (darn) near perfect.

"One is a powerback that can slash (into a gap) every now and then. And Avery is all over the place. And if you can get either one of them in space (in the open field), hold on."

Even though he hasn't played for 22 years, Kepley quietly admits he wishes he could join his crew on the field this weekend for the massive test.

"I wouldn't mind having a chance to play," he said.

But in reality, this won't be the first time that some Eskimo defenders have faced Williams in the football trenches.

In fact, defensive end Antico Dalton bashed heads with the former NFL all-star for one straight week in 1999 in training camp scrimmages between the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings.

"He's a great running back. He's a load and I'm looking forward to the challenge this week," said Dalton.

"You watch him on film and it's hard for one person to get him down.

"We have to bring two or three guys to get him down."

Mobley still remembers battling Williams when he played safety for the Dallas Cowboys nearly eight years ago. "I think I knocked the ball away on a pass play," he recalled.

Jabari Issa met Williams head-on in pre-season action with the Houston Texans in 2002. "I think I tackled him once or twice," recalled the nose tackle, "but I didn't light him up or anything like that."

Williams hasn't exactly lit the CFL on fire this year, gaining just 322 yards during an injury-plagued season.


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