Esks welcome back Arkee

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:24 AM ET

EDMONTON -- Welcome back, Arkee.

Or, as Joe McGrath would put it: “Coach, who’s the new guy?”

Offensive linemen don’t score many points in a game, but the Edmonton Eskimos right tackle scored a big one with the question he directed to running backs coach Terry Eisler while pointing to Arkee Whitlock.

McGrath knows full well who Whitlock is after helping him rush for over 1,300 yards last season.

“Is it training camp all over again,” McGrath chided, as Whitlock returned to the practice field this week for the first time since sitting out the majority training camp with a minor leg injury.

All in good fun

It was all in good fun, of course, as the two set to prepare to head into battle once again.

“I’ve been hearing that from Joe — this is probably Day 20 now,” Whitlock said, grinning. “The first day I wasn’t practising in training camp, he was giving me hell every day. That’s Joe, man, he’s a good character guy. You have to get used to him, if you don’t get used to it, it would get under your skin.

“But yeah, he’s been giving me crap for a while. I’m pretty used to it. I’m glad to be out here running around, so I can throw that in his face.”

But the playground-style kidding wasn’t totally out of place on the practice field, considering the mood Whitlock was in after finally being able to return to it.

“I’m like a little kid, I’m excited just to be out here running around with these guys and to be involved,” Whitlock said. “I felt pretty distant standing around watching in camp. Now we’re putting all the pieces back together and I feel pretty good and pretty confident.”

The same can’t be said for the Eskimos ground attack in their two preseason contests, which was far from effective.

While Whitlock’s return to the lineup will make a difference, he’s not the only contributing factor.

“It’s training camp, you’re trying to cram a lot of things in,” Whitlock said. “Guys were just trying to get their feet back and get the rust off.”

Wasn’t a factor

To Eskimos head coach Richie Hall, Whitlock’s absence wasn’t a factor at all.

“I think us running the ball had nothing to do with whether Arkee’s in there or not, we just weren’t very productive,” Hall said. “If Arkee was in there, we still wouldn’t have been very productive because he had a great year for us last year, but he’s still human.

“We weren’t pushing the line of scrimmage like we know we have to for anyone to be successful.”

But one of the challenges of preseason is coaches constantly tinkering with the lineups as they evaluate talent in training camp. The run game will improve not only with Whitlock’s return, but also with the rest of the offence becoming more familiar with each other.

“What you have now when the rosters are smaller is continuity in the guys that you’re going to go with,” Hall said. “They get a chance to go out there and play beside the guy that is going to be there instead of going into the game knowing the guy’s going to play in the first quarter and the third quarter.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


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