Esks' Ciezki is odd man out

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:42 AM ET

You’ve got to give up something in order to get something.

At least, that’s the explanation the Edmonton Eskimos gave for benching their leading special-teams tackler.

Edmonton native Chris Ciezki was placed on the practice roster, while rookie long-snapper Neil Puffer moved to the 46-man active roster.

“It wasn’t performance-based, more of a numbers thing,” said Ciezki, a former Edmonton Huskies star who has led the Eskimos in special-teams tackles since his rookie CFL season in 2008. “That’s what they told me. I did lead the team in special-teams tackles the last two years, but I think it’s more of a ratio thing more than anything.”

Head coach Richie Hall didn’t deny Ciezki has been a force on special teams for the Eskimos.

“It has nothing to do with what he did last year,” Hall said. “It’s about where our roster’s at this year and what we’re trying to go through. Sometimes you’ve got to give up something to get something and you have to make changes.

“No one likes changes unless it benefits them. But at the same time looking at the big picture, we’ve improved our football team.”

Ciezki is the second local product to be demoted so far this season, following the release of long-snapper Taylor Inglis last week.

“He’s done a great job here for the last number of years,” said Hall, who decided to have linebacker Tim St. Pierre take over long-snapping duties. “Putting a more athletic (player) who can do other things as well as long snap, but at the same time play other special-teams positions and contribute on defence immensely last year before he got hurt.”

Like St. Pierre, Puffer’s addition gives the team a Plan B.

“We feel real good about St. Pierre being a long-snapper, but this gives us some insurance. Especially (since) St. Pierre didn’t play any preseason games,” Hall said. “What this does is provide some stability in case something happens at that long-snapper position.

“The other thing, too, is (Javier) Glatt was our backup snapper, but with having him a little nicked right now, we get some good depth at that position.”

The move trades a sub-six-foot, 220-pound fullback for a six-foot-four, 230 pound Queen’s product who was named the Golden Gael’s top defensive lineman as well as their rookie of the year in 2004.

Hall previously pointed out he felt the Eskimos didn’t have enough linebacker-type bodies on their roster last season.

“I think there’s some things he can do,” Hall said of Puffer’s utility-like ability. “He can long snap, he can cover and play special teams and run down. He’s a big, fast body and those are the linebackers that you want.”

For Ciezki, Thursday was the first time in his professional career that he was part of the practice squad.

“Things happen in this league, that’s what my role is. I take everything I do very seriously and very professional, so right now that’s what they want me to do,” Ciezki said. “Obviously it’s not a decision that I made, it was a management decision. I’ll just keep on doing everything that I can do so when that opportunity comes I’ll be ready to go.”

BIG SCREEN: The Eskimos will have four games featured on the NFL Network, including July 17 in Saskatchewan, July 24 in Winnipeg and Oct. 8 in Hamilton. Commonwealth Stadium will set the stage for the Labour Day rematch Sept. 10 against Calgary.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


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