Esks ripe for beating again

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:23 AM ET

EDMONTON -- When told Mike Labinjo weighs less this season, Ricky Ray just shakes his head in disbelief.

The Edmonton Eskimos quarterback would be a better judge after the Calgary Stampeders defensive lineman handed hard on him Monday in the Labour Day Classic.

"It sure doesn't feel like (Labinjo lost 30 lb.)," Ray said. "I hope he loses another 30 this off-season.

"Your body takes a beating. Calgary put a couple good licks on me that caused some damage. This is football and it's a physical game. You will get hit, but you have to keep getting up."

The level of punishment the Stamps have put on Ray the past two meetings could actually increase Friday in the Labour Day rematch at Commonwealth Stadium (7 p.m., TSN, QR77).

With running back Arkee Whitlock (ankle) out and left tackle Calvin Armstrong released, the Eskimos are starting two fresh faces with Ray. Auburn product Brad Lester will have to pick up any extra Stampeders defenders that slip through an offensive line that now features second-year Greg Wojt as the starting right tackle.

It couldn't get worse for Ray, could it? This is almost to the point where his Stamps counterpart is feeling sorry for him.

"I do and I don't," Burris said. "The fact is I know him as a friend, and I don't want to see someone I like go through that. I've gone through it and it's part of the game. For us, we're doing what we can to win and our guys aren't doing anything dirty."

The Eskimos made seven rosters changes this week, and only one of them could really be expected to give them a boost.

Returner Tristan Jackson, who missed the first half of the season with a leg injury, comes back and will try to burn the Stamps much as he's done in the past.

For a team looking for a spark, the Mississippi Missile could be it, and the Stamps are wary.

"Healthy, he's one of the most dangerous returners in the league," said Stamps linebacker Juwan Simpson. "Nobody forgets what he did in the past."

In what's been a season of almost comical personnel errors, the reason Jackson has sat out the past month is pure mismanagement.

He was put on the nine-game injured list to start the season, but he could have come back as early as Week 4.

However, the Eskimos used their exemption to pull one player off the nine-game list when they needed kicker Derek Schiavone in an emergency.

None of this matters to Jackson, who is anxious to play.

"I've been nervous since the bye week to come back with my guys," Jackson said. "My brothers are out there playing hard and sweating, and I'm on the sideline doing nothing. Now, I'm back in the lineup, so I'm excited."

The Eskimos (2-7) are still without 2009 CFL leading receiver Fred Stamps, and 2010 leader Kelly Campbell is slowed by an ankle injury.

He will try to play Friday. One starter who isn't there anymore is Armstrong, who was released Tuesday just before his wife gave birth to the couple's first child.

The move is just another black mark in a season that seems to be unravelling for the Eskimos.

"Part of the problem is guys are walking around here wondering if they will be here or not," Campbell said. "When you think about that, you take your focus off what you should do on the football field."


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