Fresh start for A.J.

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

A.J. Harris made the most of a second chance.

He rejoined an Edmonton Eskimos team desperate for a running game and gave them another dimension.

Yet, heading towards this weekend's rematch with the Toronto Argonauts, Edmonton head coach Danny Maciocia is not ready to anoint the rookie running back as the team's saviour.

Nor is he ready to run the other guy out of town.

"Tomorrow's Day 1," Maciocia said yesterday.

"For the most part we'll give reps to everyone that's here and we'll see how it works out. A.J. is going to get his share of reps and we'll make a decision prior to leaving here on Friday morning."

Harris was impressive in his debut, rushing for 89 yards on 14 carries with a pair of touchdowns.

The native of Downers Grove, Ill., was originally a training camp casualty, losing the starting job to Damien Anderson.

But when Anderson was ineffective through the first two weeks of the season, Harris, 23, was brought back and got the start against the Argonauts last week.

"It feels great to be getting a chance to play again," Harris said.

"I like to be able to be put in a position to help the team as much as possible. I just have to keep working.

"We have to keep working, our offence has to click again and we have to come out and play like we did last week."

Harris is expected to get the start again on Sunday when the teams play the second half of a home-and-home series in Toronto.

After being released by the Eskimos following training camp, the six-foot, 225-pound product of Northern Illinois returned to his home in Chicago and waited by the phone.

"I just tried to keep in shape, tried to keep running, kept working out because I knew I was going to get a call here or somewhere else.

"Luckily, they gave me a chance to come back, so I was happy to come back," he said.

"I was there for two weeks trying to stay in shape in case something happened to get me back up here.

"My agent said they started talking to Toronto a little bit. But I was going back to try to talk to NFL teams again."

Upon his return, Harris was inserted into the lineup and gave the Eskimos a much-needed running attack in last week's 47-28 win.

The pressure was on the rookie to make an impression in his second stint with the club.

"I didn't look at it like that," he said.

"Any opportunity can be your first or your last, depending on the situation you're in. I just took it as an opportunity to show what I could do and that I could play here."

His debut has created speculation as to the future of Anderson with the club.

Yet it was only one game. It was 89 yards, not 189. And there is still a lot of football left to be played this season.

"You just need to relax a little bit, not just with A.J. Harris, but with the game itself," Maciocia said.

"Are we happy with A.J. Harris? Absolutely. Are we happy with the fact that we went out there and played well? Absolutely.

"We're happy when we win football games.

"But having said that, it's behind us now and we have to focus on Toronto again because we know they're going to come out and give it all they've got because they don't want to drop a third game in a row and that's where our focus should be."

So for now, the Eskimos are going to keep both running backs around.

"We can do whatever we want to do," Maciocia said.

"As long as it works and it's best for the football team. For the time being we're going to keep them and maybe at some point down the road we'll put them both on the roster and that's a possibility too.

"We're not planning on making any moves right now."


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