A whole different view

JOHN SHORT -- For Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:01 AM ET

Pre-game warmups created new and unique emotions for A.J. Gass in Calgary last week.

"I was on the outside looking in ... really uncomfortable," the former middle linebacker said of his first experience as an Eskimos coach in a real CFL game.

"I didn't know what I was doing or how to prepare myself."

Not that he expected any other feeling. "Ed Hervey and Kep (Dan Kepley) both went through it before and they told me what to expect.

"They've also told me that I'll get over it."

Kepley, one of the greatest defensive players in Canadian history, is Edmonton's linebackers coach. Hervey, a receiver whose speed pestered rival backs for many years, is the organization's West Coast scout.

In his 10-year Eskimo career, Gass survived more injuries than some military platoons: Blood clots, cartilage damage, knee surgeries, broken hands, broken ribs, torn muscles and dislocated shoulders.

He was the team's unchallenged leader on defence.

The new role - defensive assistant coach - requires him to do a variety of things to help Kepley, defensive coordinator Rick Campbell and other defensive coaches.

"I try to help wherever I'm needed."

Gass sees his coaching career as "work in progress ... a big, really big change from what I did before."

What he did before was plug the middle on running plays and punish receivers brave enough to trespass in his territory at middle linebacker.

The inevitable result, both for tackler and victim, was serious pain.

"By now, I'd have some nicks and bumps," Gass grinned.

In a perverse way, he misses the pain.

"Sometimes it's awkward to see a big hit and not be part of it. One thing about it: When you've got some bruises at the end of a day like this or the end of a game, you know you've put in a good day's work."

Now, a good day's work entails teaching rather than hitting, organizing rather than reacting.

"I'm enjoying it as a coach," he grinned, as articulate and informative as ever.

"I really am. But it's weird."


Videos

Photos