Blank slate for revamped Esks

Gerry Moddejonge, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:43 AM ET

After sweeping a dismal 2010 season under the carpet, the Edmonton Eskimos held onto the broom over the next six months to make sweeping changes to their coaching staff and roster heading into Sunday’s training camp.

A new season offers a blank slate after a 7-11 season that saw the Eskimos miss playoffs for the third time in five years.

“After watching film and realizing that a lot of good coaches lost their jobs because of their record last year, we’re not smarter than the guys that sat in those seats before us,” said new head coach Kavis Reed. “So it had to be a combination of some things, not just the players, as well. We’re looking at a lot of different things that were factors in the club not achieving what it desired to achieve.

“Some of the players did not fit into the schemes that we wanted and some of the players, to be frank, were not good enough.”

As of Saturday’s physical testing session, just 24 players remained on the roster from opening day a year ago.

While it seems like a drastic number, Reed said the Eskimos aren’t alone.

“We’ve done a study throughout the league based on the number of roster changes and we’re actually right in the middle in terms of the changes we’ve made throughout the off-season,” he said. “All of them were difficult decisions. There were some guys that were long-standing here, like Kamau Peterson, that you really had to deliberate and see whether or not you made the right decision.

“We whole-heartedly feel that we’ve made the right decisions and we’re moving forward.”

Time will decide right or wrong. For now, it’s just different.

“It feels like I’m coming to a new team,” said Ricky Ray. “There’s a lot of new faces, new coaches. Just a lot of change.

“It was funny, I was talking to Andrew Nowacki the other day and he’s like: ‘Man, I don’t even know who to sit by at meal time.’ So that’s all going to be new for us as well. Sometimes change is good, to shake things up and get some new faces in here and see if we can get this turned around.”

After last year, there’s only one place for the Eskimos to go in order to get out of the basement in the West Division. And it all begins in training camp, where introductions are likely the first order of business.

“It’s an important training camp because of the changes, trying to get used to the guys and learn another offence again,” Ray said. “That’s been tough over the years, coming in and starting fresh again, so there’s going to be a lot of thinking out there. It’s not like you’re coming in and you’ve got the playbook down pat.

“There’s going to be a lot of thinking by a lot of people and we’ve just got to do the best we can those first few days to kind of make that second nature for us.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

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