Giving Riders some Gass pains

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:58 AM ET

A.J. Gass is back -- and he is leading an ever-changing Edmonton Eskimos defence.

The heart and soul of the Green and Gold, the 10-year veteran has returned to lead the huddle in practice this week.

But while he is on schedule to lead the Esks into battle against Saskatchewan on Friday at Commonwealth Stadium (7 p.m.), he might not be a true middle linebacker at times during that game.

Like the club did in Winnipeg, the Esks could show several different defensive looks as they prepare for the Riders.

In one of those packages being worked on this week, Gass is one of four linebackers, working beside Antico Dalton.

"In the CFL, you've got to change it up, otherwise teams get you down and makes it easy reads for the quarterback," explained Gass.

"So, we are throwing a couple of different looks out there to kind of confuse him, make him hold the ball and let our pass rush get after him.

"Kent Austin's style usually is throw, throw, throw," continued Gass, referring to the Riders new head coach.

"We really want to give (quarterback Kerry) Joseph a couple of different looks and not let him get too comfortable."

So, the four defensive linemen front is still a very real possibility this week. So is the strange but effective two defensive linemen front the Esks used in Winnipeg last Friday.

And the Eskimos have some other looks up their sleeve.

But after tearing the meniscus in his left knee before the start of the regular season, the Esks are just happy to have Gass back on the field.

Of course, head coach Danny Maciocia is not going to guarantee that Gass will start this week for the first time in the regular season. Instead, he just wants to make sure he makes it through the next two days of practice first.

But there is no hiding his excitement.

"He can rally the troops on the defensive side of the ball, on the sidelines and locker-room," said Maciocia.

"And more importantly, when he is out there, he is like a coach playing the position."

Sophomore defensive end Adam Braidwood summed up Gass's leadership in one easy sentence.

"I can ask him something about D-line and he knows what I have to do more than I do most of the time," cracked Braidwood.

Wearing a brace on his previously injured knee, Gass isn't too concerned about somebody on the Riders diving below the belt to hurt him again.

"I can play off a cut block like anybody," said the 31-year-old.

"If they dive low, that just means they are going to end up on the ground and I am going to end up running somewhere."


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