Fiacconi's absence a blow to Esks

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:21 AM ET

EDMONTON - The Edmonton Eskimos have to find a new centre in a snap.

With the Labour Day Classic looming, the club announced Monday a shoulder injury to 10-year CFL veteran Aaron Fiacconi has ended his season.

“We have an injury situation with a long-time starter here with Aaron Fiacconi,” said head coach Kavis Reed. “We’re going to place him on the nine-game, he’s going to be out for the rest of the season. So we needed to bring someone else in because of that loss.”

That someone is six-foot-five, 285-pound Lethbridge native and University of Calgary Dinos product Dylan Steenbergen, whom the Eskimos traded with the Montreal Alouettes for during the bye week, parting with a sixth-round selection in 2012 and ‘13.

“We think Mr. Steenbergen has an opportunity to come in and contribute,” Reed said of the seventh-overall selection in 2009.

Other possible substitutes include offensive guard Kyle Koch, who has filled in at centre for Fiacconi in the past, as well as U of A product Gord Hinse, who is expected to return from the nine-game injured list and a broken thumb in time for the Labour Day rematch.

Regardless of who ends up with the job, there is no replacing the most experienced player the Eskimos had on the field.

“Yes, it is a blow,” Reed said. “But as we’ve had to throughout this year, you have to be resilient and you have to move on.

“We spoke at length (Monday) and we won’t divorce ourselves from him being a part of the team and being active in terms of being a coach now.”

But there is no place Fiacconi would rather be than back on the field where he could physically help turn things around for the struggling offence.

“It’s extremely, extremely frustrating,” Fiacconi said of a torn rotator cuff that will require surgery. “I’m in my 10th year, I’m not getting any younger and this is not the way you want to be challenged at this point in your career.

“I got the news (last) Monday and it’s been a very long bye week for me. It wasn’t time to relax or get away for me.”

Especially when all hands are needed on deck for an offence that has failed to reach the end zone in their last two outings, while protection has become non-existent at times.

“We didn’t show up pretty much the last few weeks here, we’ve had a tough time getting the monkey off our back it seems,” Fiacconi said. “The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time, give guys a chance to get away. Get some perspective and recharge.

“Understand that it’s a long season, we’re not in that bad of a situation. We’re 5-3 as a team, we have a long way to go here. I expect some big things from this group down the stretch.”

To do that, the Eskimos will have to fill some big cleats left behind by the six-foot-three, 319-pound non-import.

“He makes all the calls for us up front, so not only are we going to miss him just physically, but mentally with all the protection schemes and blocking schemes,” quarterback Ricky Ray said. “We lose that experience and that leadership, so everybody’s got to pick up the slack.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

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