Kirkland ready for Labour Day rumble

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:43 PM ET

There's football, then there's foot-brawl.

Exactly which one fans will be treated to in the Labour Day Classic between the Edmonton Eskimos and Calgary Stampeders is up in the air.

The last time the two teams met at McMahon Stadium three weeks ago, the Stampeders won 56-15. Calgary also ended up leading 3-2 when it came to league fines following the game, where Eskimos Tremayne Kirkland was ejected after an altercation along the Stampeders sideline.

The rookie receiver is catching on quickly to the provincial rivalry.

"I threw myself right in the middle," said Kirkland, who came to the defence of teammate Andre Talbot and was caught on camera throwing a wild haymaker to the midsection of Stampeders defensive lineman Mike Labinjo. "They threw me the ball, it was incomplete. I saw them beating up Talbot and I went over and helped. I kind of lost my cool, admittedly. I threw a punch. At first, I denied it, but now obviously it showed up (on TV).

"I just saw him on my teammate and my first reaction was: get off."

Never mind the fact that the six-foot-one Labinjo outweighs the five-foot-11 Kirkland by 123 pounds.

"I don't care what size, I mean, we've got pads on. I'm not scared of anybody in between the lines," said Kirkland. "A lot of my teammates and the majority of the coaching staff said it's not the right thing to do, but they would have done the same thing.

"A lot of my teammates said they will go to war with me any time, despite my size, so that gave me a little vote of confidence."

And despite it all, that time is now as the two teams prepare to face each other twice in a row.

"We were getting bullied. Coach mentioned that at halftime -- who was going to quit and who was going to stand up," Kirkland said. "Fighting is not the answer, but I wanted to let my teammates know that I'm not going to be a part of getting punched ever. This field or any field or any team, I'm not going to be on the side that's getting bullied."

Nor is he looking for a fight.

"I'm on thin ice. A rookie who hasn't had too many plays and catches, I can't really afford that," said Kirkland, who was released by the team earlier in the season before being called back. "It was just to let my teammates know I'm in it for the long haul. I'd been out for so long and hadn't practised and I was so detached from the team, I finally felt a part of the team just trying to help out.

"From top to bottom, biggest guy to smallest guy, we've got some tough guys so we can stick together like a family."

IN AND OUT: DL Justin Brown (illness) had his practice cut short while LB Rod Davis, WR Skyler Green and DB Lenny Walls were held back by leg injuries. DT Dario Romero and DE Kai Ellis opted to rest on Day A of practice.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


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