Inspiration time for Esks

Greg Prator gets a second chance with the Eskimos after Jason Tucker suffered a season-ending neck...

Greg Prator gets a second chance with the Eskimos after Jason Tucker suffered a season-ending neck injury. SUN MEDIA/Jack Dagley

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

Win one for the Gipper goes back a long way in football, back to Knute Rockne and Notre Dame and Ronald Reagan starring in the movie.

And there's every indication Jason Tucker, who already won one game this year with that career-defining catch in the end zone to beat the Calgary Stampeders, hopes he'll be able to walk into the Eskimos dressing room before the game tonight to try to inspire his teammates to beat the B.C. Lions.

But the Eskimos are about to enter a stretch of the season which will define themselves and this is a game they very much need to win for each other, more than for their injured teammate.

EMOTION

Oh, there will be emotion if, indeed, Tucker gets off the plane returning from hospital and surgery after the broken neck he suffered last weekend in the game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

"Hopefully he'll be here," said CEO Rick LeLacheur who stayed in Hamilton to be with Tucker.

"He made a comment yesterday at the hospital that he wanted to go to the locker-room and straighten these guys out."

Roommate Kamau Peterson said the whole week has been a emotional time for this team which also lost Fred Perry with a major injury on the same road trip in what is already the most staggering of seasons for injuries which make you cringe every time you see the replays.

"If Tuck walks into the dressing room before the game, I know for me, personally, it will be real emotional. It would certainly be a rallying point. It has to be," said Peterson.

But that said, Peterson also knows that this team is heading into a five-game stretch, which starts with this game, where their inspiration also has to come from knowing this is where they have to define themselves as a football team.

"A lot of people said the Eastern road trip would be the games that would define this team," he said of the two-game trip to Toronto and Hamilton.

"To me, I thought it was kind of early for that. I think these next five games will define us. It's going to be here where we find out if we're going to be an upper-level team, a middle-level team or whatever."

Back-to-back games against the B.C. Lions, the first of four they'll play against Wally Buono's bunch this season, a home game against the Grey Cup champions and undefeated Saskatchewan Roughriders and the traditional Labour Day Classic in Calgary and Labour Day Replay back home.

A negative thinking fan, and there have been a legion of them in Edmonton these past two years, can see a scenario where the badly beat up Saskatchewan Roughriders lose both games of a home-and-home set to the Calgary Stampeders and the Eskimos, who have a five-game regular season losing streak going against the Lions, lose both to the B.C. Lions. That would leave Saskatchewan, Calgary and B.C. with 5-2 records and the Eskimos playing to get into a crossover playoff game in the East.

The West has dominated the East this year, winning nine of the first 11 out-of-conference games so far.

The Lions lost their first two games of the season, both to West Division teams, but come here on a three-game winning streak put together exclusively against Eastern opposition.

BOND ON THE ROAD

The Eskimos had all that time together to bond on the road and Peterson thinks that happened.

They also, obviously, had to come together to overcome adversity.

"These next games should say where we're at and should be very telling on how we're coming together.," he said.

Fourteen-year veteran Shannon Garrett says there's no getting around it.

"Definitely these next five games are going to define us. I didn't think it would be the Eastern road trip either. No, it's going to be these next five games," he said.

Maybe Jason Tucker walking in the dressing room tonight can add extra inspiration but at the end of the day, this team has to do it on their own and on a regular basis against the top teams and develop the unity, belief and confidence in each other to be a top team.

Starting now.


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