There might be a big question mark in place of the Edmonton Eskimos starting quarterback on the depth chart this week, but there is no question Jared Zabransky is ready to go if necessary.
With top gun Ricky Ray working his way through a sternum injury suffered in the Esks’ last game against the Calgary Stampeders, Zabransky has taken the most reps he’s ever seen in a week of practice with the Eskimos.
“It’s good to get some plays,” said Zabransky, whose lone CFL start came last year — a bluff in Regina that lasted one play. “Get some reps and see stuff so I’ll be ready when my number’s called.”
Chances are better than ever that could happen this week against the visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders (Saturday at 5 p.m., TSN), with team trainers yet to sign off on Ray’s physical status.
“When you’ve got guys that are kind of in a fragile state or coming off an injury, then the backups need to be ready because they’re more susceptible to putting you in,” Zabransky said.
So far this season, he has made it into games when certain scenarios called for his athleticism and maneuverability, but he has yet to begin a CFL game with a blank slate.
“You’ve got to approach every game like you’re the starter,” he said. “You could come in the next day and the starter’s got food poisoning, so you’ve got to be ready. Your number’s called and you’ve got to be ready to perform and that’s more mental than physical.
“That’s basically what I’ve been doing all season and I’m continuing to do it.”
Zabransky said that he has yet to show his true potential without having a true start under his belt.
“That’s what every guy wants. They want to be able to get in there and get a rhythm and see stuff early so when it becomes crunch time late in a game, you’ve already been in a flow,” he said. “You can see some stuff, blips and blurbs. It’s going to take a full game.
“You get a lot of things in the course of a game that breaks down and when stuff breaks down, that’s usually when I’m at my best.
“If I’m in there for the whole game, I will cut it loose a little more and try to make plays.”
Zabransky saw his largest amount of playing time in Calgary last week, completing eight of 16 pass attempts for 107 yards, an interception and a touchdown. Two more throws to slotback Kelly Campbell in the end zone in the dying seconds were negated upon review.
“You never want to give up on a game, so my approach to it was go out and execute every play and see where that takes us,” said Zabransky. “We were quite a bit behind at that point, but I just wanted to go in and execute to the best of my ability to put it on film and the coaches could trust and believe in me.”
His receivers, on the other hand, don’t need added convincing.
“I’ve always thought Zabransky was a good quarterback and a young leader coming up,” said Campbell. “He speaks up in the meeting rooms, he’s watching film, he’s always trying to find ways to get everybody better.
“He did a very good job and he’s only going to get better.”