Justin time for Eskimos

The Esks hope Airabin Justin can plug a few holes in their injury-riddled defensive corp. (Sun...

The Esks hope Airabin Justin can plug a few holes in their injury-riddled defensive corp. (Sun Media/James Maclennan)

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

The CFL transaction wire will never show it as a trade - but the Edmonton Eskimos essentially swapped Omarr Morgan for Airabin Justin.

The Green and Gold signed Justin - a five-year CFL defensive back - to a contract yesterday, helping their hurting secondary.

With safety Trey Young dealing with an ankle problem and halfback/cornerback Jonte Buhl missing Sunday's practice with an undisclosed issue, the Esks might need to dress Justin for Thursday's game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders (7 p.m., Commonwealth Stadium, CHED, TSN).

"We have got some injuries in the back end and we are looking for someone with CFL experience," said Edmonton head coach Danny Maciocia on the move.

"He was (Saskatchewan's) starting field corner in the playoffs and Grey Cup game (last year). He is a proven commodity."

But if you dig deeper into this transaction, there is plenty of irony.

The Eskimos released Morgan in the off-season, unhappy with his 2007 performance and not willing to pay his apparent six-figure salary.

The Riders jumped at the opportunity to bring Morgan back to Regina, creating a problem for Justin.

It became clear in training camp that the Riders had too many bodies in the secondary.

"They weren't going to pay three starters (for two cornerback positions)," said Justin.

"There were three of us (in Regina) - me, James Johnson and Omarr Morgan.

"They said it was going to be a competition and it was never a competition."

Justin lost the battle to Morgan and was released by the Riders on July 8.

And the entire experience didn't sit well with the 28-year-old import.

In particular, Justin was stashed on the injured reserve list to start this year in Regina, even though he wasn't hurt.

"I had problems with that whole thing (in Regina) just because they were trying to tell people I was injured," he said.

Out of the league for nearly six weeks, Justin heard from the Toronto Argos and Minnesota Vikings.

But the first concrete offer came from Maciocia last weekend, forcing a long journey to Edmonton.

"I was flying for two days straight," said Justin, who was visiting his girlfriend in Indiana when he heard from the Esks.

"I had to go from Indiana to Arizona - that is where all my things are."

Appearing on the practice field yesterday, Justin is now with his third CFL team after playing the first three years of his Canadian stint in Hamilton.

FINISH LINES: JUSTIN'S SALARY HASN'T BEEN RELEASED, BUT THE ESKS ARE SURELY PAYING HIM MUCH LESS THAN MORGAN'S CONTRACT FIGURE FROM LAST YEAR ... JUSTIN'S FATHER PLAYED FOR THE L.A. RAMS (1979), BALTIMORE COLTS (1982) AND WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (1980). SIDNEY JUSTIN IS NOW AN R&B SINGER WITH EXPERIENCE WITH TWO BANDS: SHALAMAR AND THE MIRACLES.

PARTING SHOT: SIMILAR TO WHEN THE CLUB SIGNED SCOTT COE EARLIER THIS SEASON, MACIOCIA IS PREACHING ABOUT ADDING MORE DEPTH WITH THE SIGNING OF JUSTIN.

But as time goes on and the injuries pile up for the Esks, Maciocia is becoming more animated in his desire to make sure his team isn't left without enough healthy bodies.

"If we have to have 100 bodies here, we will have 100 bodies. But we will make sure we compete week in and week out," he remarked yesterday.


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