From O-line to sidelines

While he’s new to the team as a coach, players on the Eskimos remember Tim Prinsen, shown here in a...

While he’s new to the team as a coach, players on the Eskimos remember Tim Prinsen, shown here in a game with Jason Maas in 2004, as a member of the Esks’ offensive line,

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:27 PM ET

Tim Prinsen left the field at Commonwealth Stadium in 2004 as a player and returned Monday as a coach.

The former Edmonton Eskimos offensive lineman returned to coach the same unit he once played for, replacing Jeff Bleamer, who was relieved of his duties over the bye week.

“Coach Bleamer took the hit for a lot of our poor play,” said centre Aaron Fiacconi. “Great coach, great person. I think he’s very well respected around this locker-room. He will be missed, but football is a game of what have you done for me lately?”

While six years have passed since Prinsen won a Grey Cup with the Eskimos in 2003, his attitude hasn’t changed.

“He played here so he knows what people expect around here: it’s win or nothing. There’s nothing else,” said offensive guard Kyle Koch. “From an offensive line standpoint it’s be physical, be a bunch of — I can’t even say it — be a bunch of nasty guys. Pricks, that’s what he wants. That’s what they expect, that’s how it should be.”

While Prinsen is familiar with the Eskimos organization, some of his O-line guys are already well-versed with him.

“I remember coach Prinsen coming into the league as a rookie in ’02, I remember he was part of one of the best groups in the Canadian Football League,” said Fiacconi, who began his career with the Montreal Alouettes. “He was the centre of it and they had gone to the Grey Cup in 2002 — my rookie year — won the Grey Cup in ’03 and he was a big part of that.”

The Alouettes beat the Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium in 2002 before Edmonton got some revenge in the championship the following year.

“He was a gritty football player, a hard worker and he was always held in high regard by a lot of people around the league,” Fiacconi said. “He’s not too far removed from playing in this organization and being a part of the championship.

“He’s going to work us to death, which is what we need.”

While Fiacconi played against Prinsen, Eskimos offensive guard Patrick Kabongo played with him.

“My first year I played with him, great player,” said Kabongo, who began as a defensive lineman in his rookie CFL season in 2004. “He knows what he’s doing, he has a lot of experience. He was at the U of A for a while coaching the O-line.

“Knowing what I know about Tim Prinsen and what I saw and what I experienced with him, he’s going to give all he has. He’s a leader.

“His mentor was coach Mac (Bill MacDermott) when he was here. Coach Mac pretty much showed me how to play and Tim is exactly like him.”

Prinsen remembers Kabongo as a teammate.

“Really, we only had two games because I think he was here for two games as a D-lineman,” said Prinsen, who retired that year due to a knee injury. “It’s kind of surreal, it’s one thing being here as a player, but then to come in as a coach … it’s been an interesting last week, that’s for sure.

“This is the first day working with the guys and I’m just getting my feet wet here.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


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