Big game for Esks' Sherritt

On the mend since sustaining an ankle injury in Week 17, Eskimos rookie linebacker J.C. Sherritt is...

On the mend since sustaining an ankle injury in Week 17, Eskimos rookie linebacker J.C. Sherritt is back in the lineup in time for Sunday's Western Final against the Lions in Vancouver. (Perry Mah, QMI Agency)

Gerry Moddejonge, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:30 PM ET

EDMONTON - There is no time like the present for the return of the Edmonton Eskimos’ top tackler.

Rookie linebacking sensation J.C. Sherritt is back in the lineup — minus one arm cast and an ankle brace — in time for Sunday’s division final.

Though he was medically cleared to play in last week’s semifinal in Edmonton, the team decided rest is best for the Eastern Washington product, who led the team in tackling until suffering an ankle injury in Week 17.

Since then, the West Division’s nominee for most outstanding rookie has been on the mend — from both the ankle injury and surgical pins that were in the finger he broke earlier in the season — and is more than a little anxious to play in the biggest game of his young pro career.

“It is, absolutely. Every game we play from here on out is going to be the biggest one,” said the five-foot-nine, 215-pound ball-carrier magnet. “It was painful and helpless to watch that last game, but they went out and took care of business and luckily I’m going to get one more shot at the finals.”

And one more crack at the Lions, who singled out Sherritt in coverage twice in one game in September with touchdown passes to running back Andrew Harris.

“Those were plays that were definitely learning experiences for me,” Sherritt said. “And against Montreal, those were back-to-back weeks where a running back caught one on me and those are something that you take with you.

“And that’s something that I’ll take with me into this game. To get another shot at B.C. down there, that’s a great feeling.”

As will be hearing that his head coach doesn’t put all the blame for Harris’s touchdowns on Sherritt.

“I’m going to tend to say it wasn’t his mistake, our pass rush didn’t get to (Travis) Lulay in time,” said Kavis Reed. “We could have had (defensive back) David Pittman covering him and I think Harris would have gotten open.

“Coverage and pass rush go hand-in-hand and those guys have got to understand that on that very same play, had Rod (Davis) triggered faster, he would have made a play on Lulay and J.C. wouldn’t have been in that situation.”

But that doesn’t change the threat Harris poses to the Eskimos defence.

“He’s huge (to their offence). He’s a great player. I think he’s a really underrated player, too, honestly. He doesn’t get enough credit because once he gets that ball, he can take it to the house from anywhere. There’s not a lot of players out there that can do that.

“He’s somebody that you’ve just got to know where he’s at, but at the same time if you focus too much on one guy, they’ve got other guys that can beat you.”

Such as Travis Lulay. With his arm and legs.

“He’s a heck of a player,” Sherritt said of the Lions quarterback and West nominee for most outstanding player. “You really don’t want to get him out running everywhere, because he can make plays.”

IN AND OUT: DE Julius Williams (head) returned to practice Friday after taking a bump on the head in Wednesday’s practice and sitting out Thursday for precautionary reasons. He is expected to play Sunday after no concussion symptoms were discovered.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

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