High cost of Gass?

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

A.J. Gass was prepared to have the best season of his career.

It turned out to be the toughest.

The veteran middle linebacker may be playing in his final game with the Edmonton Eskimos when they host the Saskatchewan Roughriders tomorrow at Commonwealth Stadium.

Gass, 30, will become a free agent at the end of the season and could end up playing elsewhere next year.

"Personally I would love to have him back," said Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia. "It's been a tough year for A.J., it's been a tough year for the whole team. It's been a tough year for A.J personally and hopefully better things are ahead."

Gass missed all of training camp this year tending to the death of his mother.

He returned only to injure his hamstring. He then re-injured himself and had to sit out again.

SEVEN GAMES

In total, Gass suited up in just seven games this season.

"I'd love to be back here next year," Gass said. "I'm not a free agent until February 15 and until then, I can't even entertain thoughts of playing for other teams.

"If a deal could get worked out that would be amazing, that would be great, that would be pretty much ideal."

With the Esks missing the playoffs for the first time in 35 years, work has already begun on next season.

Gass is one of the team's core players on defence and it would be difficult to imagine him in anything but an Eskimos uniform next year.

However, with the turn-over that is expected this off-season and a new salary cap to contend with, there may be someone else patrolling the middle of the field and knocking over guys on special teams next season.

"He's one guy that I would think we'd like to have back," Maciocia said. "I would hope he'd want to come back."

Having to deal with the passing of his mother was tough on Gass.

Added to that were his injury problems and the Eskimos struggles.

What had started out as optimism quickly turned to heartache.

"I was 100% prepared coming into camp mentally and physically ready," Gass said.

"After the loss of my mother all that went down the drain.

"I was back to square one, then getting back here and getting an injury early kind of complicated matters.

"Personally it was one of the hardest years as an athlete, not just as a professional."

UPBRINGING

Gass credits his nature and upbringing for getting him through the tough times.

He treated all his setbacks as temporary and didn't make any permanent decisions based on those setbacks.

With the year nearly behind him, Gass is already focused on the future.

"I plan to be a beast next year," he said.

"It's almost like I have a new focus, a new drive, new energy. I can't wait to start training in the off-season and doing all the little things that will help whatever team I'm on win games.

"I plan on being a force in this league wherever I am and have my best year yet."

NOTES: Defensive back Roosevelt Williams will have surgery today on his torn rotator cuff. Williams was injured three weeks ago against Saskatchewan.


Photos