Esks rush to fill the gap

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:27 PM ET

The Edmonton Eskimos are rushing in a replacement for the injured Arkee Whitlock.

Recent acquisition Brad Lester will start at running back in Friday’s rematch against the Calgary Stampeders after Whitlock injured his foot in last Monday’s Labour Day Classic.

“We’ve got a lot of guys hurt, so I met with coach (Tuesday) and I’m probably going to get a lot of snaps Friday and I’m really looking forward to it,” said Lester, who was placed on the Eskimos practice roster after signing as a free agent on Aug. 23. “I’ve only been here for about a week and a half, so the system’s still new to me but I caught on very fast.”

An Auburn product, the 24-year-old Georgia native was brought in by the Chicago Bears and heard from the Houston Texans before finishing the last two weeks of the 2009 season with the B.C. Lions.

Lester took first-team reps in the team’s one and only practice of the week Wednesday, along with Calvin McCarty, who missed the last three games with a hand injury.

“It’s one day to get ready for a real tough team, but hey, stuff happens and you’ve just got to show up to play when the ball’s snapped,” said Lester, who noticed one major difference in coming to the CFL. “The field’s a lot wider. I like that because it gives me an advantage to get outside and try to make people miss and stretch the defence a lot.”

It was something the Eskimos weren’t able to do in Monday’s 52-5 loss to the Stampeders, where they only rushed for a total of five yards.

“Those guys don’t give up a lot of rushing yards, so this is a big opportunity,” said Lester. “After getting beat like that, everybody’s momentum has been more about pride and going out there and giving everything you have and not laying down.

“My philosophy has always been to get four or five yards a carry and eventually somebody will miss, and turn it into a long one.”

Lester said he has nothing but confidence in the Eskimos offensive line, which has come under fire for a lack of pass protection this season. He was quick to point out that before Whitlock got hurt in the last game, he was leading the West Division in rushing yards.

“I think it’s an overall effort. Us as running backs have to help them out as well with the pass protection,” Lester said. “A lot of times, they have more guys blitzing than we have to block, so it makes it look like they’re not doing their job, but they’re working hard. They’re here every day, they get in earlier than we do and they leave later than we do.”

McCarty participated in drills Wednesday for the first time since injuring his hand against the Toronto Argonauts.

“The hand feels good, we’ll see,” said McCarty, who should see time on offence and special teams Friday.

He said he’s not rushing back just because Whitlock is injured.

“It’s tough to see your counterpart go down, but we’ve got to have all hands on deck,” said McCarty. “He’s having a great season, but we’ve still got to win games.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


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