Harris is hurting bad

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:40 AM ET

The Edmonton Eskimos will likely be without starting running back AJ Harris for at least the next two games.

Harris has a sprained MCL in one knee after being injured in last Saturday's win against Hamilton.

While the club hasn't officially stated how long he will be on the sidelines, he's expected to miss Sunday's game in Montreal (11 a.m. MT, CHED, TSN2).

And because the Esks play in Winnipeg five days later (Sept. 26), the short turnaround will likely make it difficult for Harris to be ready to play in Manitoba.

But the outcome of Monday's MRI on the damaged leg could have been much worse.

The rookie running back - who has emerged as a budding star in this city this year with a 5.9-yard rushing average and effective pass receiving skills - was initially fearing ACL damage.

"It is so much better knowing it is not an ACL (tear) that is going to take me out for a year," said Harris. "This is something I can come back from."

The Eskimos are officially listing Harris's injury as week-to-week.

While he is on the sidelines, Calvin McCarty will surely become the feature tailback as a non-import.

But to ensure depth behind McCarty, the Esks are going to activate Ron McClendon to the roster for Sunday's game in Quebec.

McClendon hasn't taken a snap in a game since Week 8 of last year.

But he could be in some offensive plays on Sunday because McCarty is such a weapon on special teams.

While McCarty has a 7.6-yard rushing average and 9.2-yard receiving average in a backup role, he is a difference-maker on special teams.

"I am just concerned that he is going to get worn down - the wear and tear of playing so many snaps," said head coach Danny Maciocia.

"You got to be careful. There is no feature tailback in this league that plays on three or four special teams - we have a guy that does."

So McCarty could be given a breather on Sunday on offence with McClendon.

Kevin Challenger was also used last Saturday to take some of the workload off McCarty on special teams.

"You got linebacker mentality in a running back," said special teams co-ordinator Noel Thorpe on McCarty.

"He is the type of body-type matchup that we can put him against bigger, more physical players, but has the speed to match faster players.

"And he is a good tackler in open field."

A fourth-round pick in 2007, McCarty becomes the third feature tailback for the Esks this year.

McClendon was actually tabbed as the starter in training camp last year. But he lost the job relatively early last year and the Esks have since used several others in that role.

That history has led McClendon to paint his comments in the media in rather blunt terms this week.

When asked about his opportunity to play Sunday, McClendon responded: "I don't see it as an opportunity. I am filling in. That is all I am doing.

"Opportunity did pass me by here."

FINISH LINES: McCarty's 21-yard rushing touchdown to win last Saturday's game against Hamilton was his first of the year and first as an Esk ... With McCarty's non-import status, the Esks can use an extra import wide receiver in certain formations.


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