Faces of change

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

For the Edmonton Eskimo veterans who suffered through the failure and pain last year, their day has finally arrived.

With main training camp starting this morning at Clarke Park, they finally have a chance to begin the long process of erasing the memories of missing the playoffs last year.

"I have been waiting on this for six months," said offensive lineman Dan Comiskey.

"We just have to come out and start proving that last year was just a bad memory.

"A lot of guys have been working real hard this off-season. You see it in every group.

"You see almost resentment about last year's season. It's time to come out and do something right."

Ending the 34-year Eskimo playoff streak last fall means there was no need for extra motivation in the long winter months.

"It was a tool I used to re-focus. I started training six weeks early," remarked middle linebacker A.J. Gass during a break in the team medical process yesterday at a local hotel.

"I think the mindset amongst all the vets was the same way.

"The off-season was far too long and I am very anxious to get on the field and turn this thing around."

Gone are familiar faces like Ed Hervey, Singor Mobley and Donny Brady.

There were new faces nearly everywhere you turned yesterday. It's a good thing the club made the players hold up big signs with their names printed on them before getting their head shot picture taken for the media guide.

"You miss the playoffs there are changes everywhere and every team in the CFL is getting better and we have to make sure we are one step ahead of everybody," said 16-year veteran kicker/punter Sean Fleming.

"You go through this every five or six years where you get wholesale changes.

"Those changes five, six or seven years ago brought in guys like Ed Hervey, A.J. Gass, Donny Brady - guys who stuck around and were the core for a long time.

"Now (some) are not here and we will get a new batch of guys and hopefully they can play here and establish themselves in the community and be the type of player the organization expects."

From the sights and sounds of rookie camp earlier this week, young players know they have a chance to make this team.

For example, there aren't just a couple of spots to fill on defence.

There could be six new starters on defence - and that's being conservative.

"Collectively as a team last year we didn't play as well as we could," recalled Fleming.

"We had breakdowns, weak areas of our team and I think that has been addressed in the off-season.

"Individually I think some guys had pretty good seasons last year and some of the other guys need to step up.

"It's a different era here - especially with some guys retiring and others let go - it's going to be a very competitive camp.

"It will be interesting to see who steps up."

The first of back-to-back practices today starts at 7:50 a.m.


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