Esks release 20 players

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:50 AM ET

EDMONTON - The Edmonton Eskimos released 20 players on Saturday as teams across the CFL prepared their rosters for the start of the 2011 regular season.

Heading into Saturday with 76 players following a two-week training camp, the Eskimos had to pare down to a 46-man active roster and announced a total of 10 injured players.

Seven of the 20 released can still be brought back by Sunday to form the practice squad.

“The greatest emotion on a day like (Saturday) is for the players,” said Eskimos general manager Eric Tillman, who pulled an all-nighter with his coaching staff finalizing the roster. “Some of the decisions are obvious and easy to make from a football standpoint. From a human standpoint, they’re never easy.

“You’re dealing with young people, with their lives. Many of them are married. This is their dream to play at this level. For some it’s a bump in the road, some will end up playing elsewhere. For others, it’s the end of their career.”

The most senior player released was nine-year defensive tackle Marcus Adams, and four-year CFL defensive back Lenny Walls, who spent five years in the NFL.

“There were some subjective decisions. There were a couple of tough decisions with veterans and then there were some decisions that, football-wise, were easier,” Tillman said. “But from a professional and personal standpoint, still were difficult.”

While the number of players are finalized, the Eskimos roster can still change in terms of personnel filling those spots.

“Obviously the 46-man roster is still fluid,” said Tillman. “You have to establish the roster, there still are moves we can make in terms of acquiring other players, releasing guys, evaluating later in the week.”

Compared to the 46-man active roster the Eskimos closed out the 2010 season with last November, more than half of those players — 24, to be precise, as well as 11 on the injured list — were no longer with the club by Saturday’s cut-down deadline.

“We had a lot of positions up for grabs,” said Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed. “Some guys played their way on and some guys played their way off, so it was extremely tough for us because we wanted to go through the process keenly.

“With the time constraints, it made it tough.”

While other teams in the league began chopping their rosters much earlier in training camp, the Eskimos wanted to hang onto as many numbers as they could for as long as possible in order to give would-be players opportunities.

“It worked out because some guys that we thought were on the outs, actually played their way in,” Reed said. “So I think one of the smarter things we did was hanging onto some guys until the very end.”

IN AND OUT: QB Matt Nichols was placed on the one-game injured list Friday with a yet-to-be determined injury. But the Eskimos are intending to go with four quarterbacks, even when he returns to the active roster.

“We plan to keep four quarterbacks here,” Tillman said. “What that pecking order will be and exactly who those four will be, that’s a coaching decision, but we plan to have four quarterbacks here this season.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

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