EDMONTON - For as close as the Edmonton Eskimos and B.C. Lions have been in the standings all season, they are leagues apart for Joe McGrath.
Seven weeks ago, the veteran offensive lineman was picked up by the Lions after being thrown under the proverbial bus by the floundering Eskimos.
Although both clubs got off to equally dismal 1-7 starts, McGrath took advantage of his fresh start in Vancouver.
“It was one of the better things to happen in my career. I’ve got great teammates out here with (former Eskimos defensive back J.R.) LaRose and some other guys I’m familiar with,” McGrath said.
“When I made my move over here, we both pretty much had identical records.”
Besides a two-week stint in training camp with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2009, McGrath spent the entire previous six years of his career in Edmonton.
And with the playoff implications Saturday’s potential tie-breaking game has, he couldn’t ask for a bigger stage to face his former club.
“There’s just one more team in our way to pretty much seal the deal with the playoffs,” McGrath said. “If we get by Edmonton, we’re pretty much in the playoffs, I’d say.
“That’s the CFL, it makes it exciting. It’s always a race down to the end and there’s nothing better than a good ol’ West rivalry between the B.C. Lions and Edmonton Eskimos.”
Good being the operative word, because the Lions feel McGrath’s presence has made them better.
“We’ve stabilized our offensive line a little bit,” said Lions head coach Wally Buono, who also picked up Calgary Stampeders cast-off Jesse Newman.
“It’s a blessing to be out here and play for a guy like Wally,” said McGrath, who expects to have a little more in the tank Saturday.
“It’s not even just with Edmonton, it’s just to get pumped up because these are playoff games.
“They haven’t started yet, but these are ones where you’re jockeying for playoff position here. It’s a little extra incentive that it’s against my former team.”