Lost on path to Eskimo Way?

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:19 AM ET

EDMONTON - It was supposed to be the return to The Eskimo Way.

But, to many, it looked like Eric Tillman and Kavis Reed had already lost their way on the opening weekend of training camp.

Let’s face it, the optics were not good.

But is that fair?

With 40 players on last year’s roster no longer there, the Eskimos cut Canadian safety Elliott Richardson the day before training camp. That struck many as a classless move.

Then the former flagship franchise announced that five players — including receiver Jason Barnes, making a courageous and triumphant return from a near-fatal ruptured spleen — had flunked the medical.

A few hours later they came clean and admitted it was more Dr. Tillman and Dr. Reed who’d flunked them, not the Eskimos doctors. Indeed, Saleem Borhot had work in Calgary within the hour and passed the Stampeders medical, no problem.

As a result of all this, the Eskimos ended up with one kicker and seriously short of quarterbacks for Day 1 of camp Sunday and the first two-a-day Monday. At least one commentator referred to this as “Edmonton’s kicker and quarterbacking debacle.”

I suspect Tillman has just had an education on how scared Edmonton fans are by the previous regime.

And I believe he’d like to shout out “I am not Danny Maciocia” and point out stuff like the fact he hasn’t had a losing season in all his time in this league, other than working for those slapstick owners with expansion Ottawa.

Tillman agreed yesterday to walk Eskimos fans through the moves.

“Regarding Elliott Richardson, defensive co-ordinator Rich Stubler felt he wasn’t an ideal fit at safety in his system. We tried to trade him without success, especially around the draft.

“When that didn’t happen, Kavis wanted to see how our young defensive backs and linebackers looked in rookie camp before making a final decision. When they impressed, especially the young linebackers, the plan to move T.J. Hill to safety was fully enacted, and, thus, the timing of Elliott’s release.”

Tillman says this is no time for Mr. Nice Guy.

“When a veteran is no longer in your plans, many people will say, hey, why not just let them come in and compete? But, if a vet gets injured in camp, you buy them.”

“In terms of the guys we released on Saturday, it’s not as simple as yes he can, or no he can’t, when reviewing physicals. Each circumstance is unique, and in a couple of situations we were looking at injuries from the previous season, and medical opinions on the possibility of history repeating itself.

“With one of those players he had a rotator cuff issue from lifting. With another, it was a minimal risk, but a heart issue our doctors flagged. With another, it was a legitimate concern that an old problem might quickly resurface.”

Dr. Tillman and Dr. Reed?

“We are blessed with an outstanding medical staff, and they provide us with the best possible information. If you wish to call us Dr. Reed and Dr. Tillman, we’ll take it as a good-natured poke. But, in reality, we simply take the information we’re given, which is top-notch, and, when things aren’t black and white, try to make the best decisions possible for our club.

“They’re not always easy; and they’re not always right. But, they’re always made in the context of what’s best for the Edmonton Eskimos.

“If you want to talk about a real debacle, that was the Eskimos finishing last in the west four of the last five seasons. In terms of our current kicking situation, the greater sin would have been to clear someone our doctor felt was an injury risk. So, we took the information we were given post medicals, made a decision to release Louie Sakoda, and two days later had a former all-star (Damon Duval) under contract. That sounds more like fixing a challenge, as opposed to creating a debacle.

“Quarterback-wise, we lost a young man due to a medical condition — not his fault, not ours, either. We have two options we feel comfortable with, and each could unfold in the next 24-48 hours. When one of those quarterbacking options is on his honeymoon,” he said of Kerry Joseph.

“Patience is required.”

Honesty is always the best policy.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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