All in the family affair

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

Charles Alston and Ron Warner are locked into the strangest battle of Edmonton Eskimo training camp.

The two cousins are trying to land the remaining starting defensive tackle position.

To make matters more interesting, veteran Jabari Issa is also competing for that job.

Given the import ratio and CFL roster size, the Eskimos might be able to - at best - keep two of the three combatants, using one to start and one to back up.

It all means that one cousin could send the other cousin packing for home with no paycheque and a very uncertain football future.

But don't think for a second that this scenario is creating for awkward times between the two hulking Americans.

Forget about that.

"I will be happy whoever makes it," said Alston.

"Am I supposed to get mad because my cousin makes it and I don't? That is my family and I got to support him and I'm sure he will support me."

That is exactly the case.

"If they decide to keep (Alston) over me I wouldn't have no animosity toward anything," added Warner.

Alston enters the competition as a third-year Eskimo who is trying to convert himself from defensive end to defensive tackle.

At 29, he's younger and seemingly more athletic at 6-foot-6 and 271 pounds.

Acquired from Winnipeg in the Jason Nugent deal in the off-season, Warner is in his first Eskimo camp and is also trying to switch from defensive end to an interior lineman.

But at 31, he's older and not quite the physical specimen that Alston is, registering at 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds.

What matters most, though, is the coach's opinion - and so far it appears Warner is ranked third in the battle.

"Ron is working hard," admitted Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia.

"He brings a physical presence, but he is in for a tough, tough battle because we have got two guys who are having an outstanding camp in Alston and Issa."

From yesterday's practice it appears Issa is actually the front-runner for the starting job.

With Robert Brown holding one defensive tackle spot, Issa lined up next to him with the first-team defensive line yesterday morning.

Alston and Warner lined up with the second unit.

But even though the optics really suggest that one cousin could be going home at the end of camp, they truly appear to be friends on and off the field.

"I have looked up to him for a while," said Alston on Warner. "So, getting to play with him is a joy."

Warner played 19 games in the NFL over three seasons (1998 New Orleans, 2003 Tampa, 2004 Washington), so he has actually played more tilts down south than Alston has played in the CFL.

Warner has 27 CFL games under his belt from Winnipeg. With the Bombers' last season, Warner had six sacks and a team-leading seven tackles for losses.

So, the experience edge certainly goes to him.

"I don't really see it going against (Alston in camp)," explained Warner.

"I have been playing the game a long time and I'm trying to help make him better because he is a great athlete.

"I just wish the best for him."

FINISH LINES: Today marks Alston's 29th birthday.


Videos

Photos