Pointless preseason

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:44 AM ET

The Edmonton Eskimos didn't take half their team to Calgary last week.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders aren't bringing half their team here tonight.

The new players don't have enough game exposure to make the team with their play in front of fans and other people's players, and the veterans don't have enough game time to really get ready against players in other uniforms.

Any chance of convincing yourself that tonight's game might manage to be meaningful in any way, shape or form went out the window when the league scheduled it.

Why would the two teams playing the opening game of the season against each other in Regina next week be forced to play against each other in the final preseason game?

They'll both be going out of their way to show each other nothing - and Eskimos' head coach Danny Maciocia admits it.

So why bother even playing these things in public? Why not meet in Red Deer for one and Lloydminster for the other? Why inflict this on the fans?

It's not like in hockey. Fans don't go to a preseason football game trying to pick the team themselves.

INVEST

Eskimos fans just want to know who made the team before they invest any interest in any of the players. Name the team and then they get into it. Really get into it.

But is it my imagination, or is there getting to be less and less to a CFL preseason game every year?

Maybe, said Maciocia. But that doesn't make it a bad thing.

"A few years ago Ottawa played Montreal in Montreal when Don Matthews was coaching the Alouettes, and out of 60 snaps Matthews blitzed them 50 times," said the coach.

Now, he said, coaches get on the phone before the games and make deals.

They agree not to blitz, or to bring only a specified number of players on a blitz. They agree to kick to the return men so they can be evaluated. That sort of thing.

"We need to evaluate," said Maciocia.

That said, a few moments later, he says he pretty much knows who is going to be on his team right now.

But Ricky Ray missed the last third of the season last year and he hasn't even played a down yet.

"I've thought about it and I guess in my perfect world, if it were up to me, I'd play a little bit in the first one and a lot in the second one," said Ray.

"The thing about a quarterback is that you don't get hit in training camp. You need to get a few hits and get used to the speed of the game."

If there's one thing for fans to study tonight it will be Ray and the new improved offensive line he'll be playing behind this year.

Any success the Eskimos will enjoy this season will probably start there.

"We'll make sure Ricky Ray is in there with the so-called first unit, or at least four-fifths of it.

"When we substitute them, he'll be substituted, too," said Maciocia.

"We'll give him at least the first half. He needs to play, run out, get hit and get into that rhythm. He needs to get a good feel with the receivers, offensive line and the running backs."

Watching Fred Perry play against some of his former teammates may hold a bit of an attraction, too.

'UNBELIEVABLE'

"He's been unbelievable," Maciocia said of the defensive lineman who spent one year as an Eskimo before taking a try at the NFL and returning to the league with Ottawa then Saskatchewan and becoming a force.

"On one play in camp, he took out our guard, tackle and quarterback. Kamau Peterson came up to me and said 'Getting him might have been the best move you made all year.'"

But mostly this will be a CFL preseason game like any other.

While this is a team that needs to get their fans enthused and excited after two years of missing the playoffs on the heels of setting the North American pro sports record of 34 consecutive seasons in the playoffs, that's not a priority with Maciocia.

Nor should it be.

Still, you'd like to figure there's a way to make this more interesting, more meaningful and more fun for the fan.

"I don't think there's a better way," said Maciocia.

Maybe Dan Comiskey has the right attitude.

"It is what it is," said the Eskimos veteran offensive lineman. "It's the preseason. Just endure it."


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