Joseph guns for Esks starting role

Kerry Joseph sees the wide-open field for the Eskimos starting QB position as an opportunity to...

Kerry Joseph sees the wide-open field for the Eskimos starting QB position as an opportunity to re-earn the starting gig. (David Bloom, Edmonton Sun)

Gerry Moddejonge, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 8:55 PM ET

EDMONTON - For the last two years, Kerry Joseph knew his place on the Edmonton Eskimos.

A veteran quarterback brought in to mentor the young guns and take all the third-and-short risks away from the since-traded Ricky Ray, Joseph suddenly finds himself as the most experienced pivot in the system heading into training camp in June.

While not a lot of expectations are on the 38-year-old to regain the same form that saw him lead the Saskatchewan Roughriders to the 2007 Grey Cup on the way to being named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player, there is no denying the remarkable opportunity he now has to earn back a starting gig.

“I just look at it as a great opportunity to come in and compete, make each other better and be good at that quarterback spot,” Joseph said. “You know there’s going to be a lot hanging over that position.”

Which is why the Eskimos, who traded Ricky Ray to the Toronto Argonauts in December, jumped at the chance to get a look — along with their fans — at their five signed quarterbacks during a three-day mini-camp, which wraps up Friday at the Commonwealth Stadium fieldhouse from 9-10:30 a.m.

“But like I told the guys, we’re not Ricky. We have to be ourselves and we have to be good within ourselves,” said Joseph, who could just as easily be keeping his advice to himself as he pursues the top spot on the depth chart.

But he won’t.

Next to Joseph, Steven Jyles is the next most-veteran quarterback entering his seventh season, having spent his first two in Edmonton. He is turning 30 this year and is currently slated as the team’s top quarterback coming into training camp. After them, Matt Nichols and Eric Ward both just turned 25, while 23-year-old Jeremiah Masoli is entering his rookie season north of the border after being released from the San Francisco 49ers training camp last year.

“It just comes naturally,” Joseph said of his mentorship role. “Sooner or later, I’ve got to depart from this game and these guys are going to be left to play the game.

“If I can look back and see guys that I had a chance to mentor having success on the field, I’d feel that I did my job. But at the same time, I’ll come out here and get my work in. I feel that if I come out here and be my best, I’m mentoring them that way, too.”

After reaching the pinnacle of the CFL five years ago, Joseph has never been in the position to repeat either the championship or the MOP performance.

Leaving Saskatchewan following 2007, his time in Toronto marked his two worst years as a starter since joining the CFL in his rookie season in 2003, as the Argos missed playoffs both times.

Joseph finally made it back to the post-season last year behind Ray. This time, he has a chance to take the lead.

“It would be nice,” Joseph said. “I would be lying to you if I said I would settle but at the same time I don’t make those decisions.”

All he can control is his mind and body, which looks in better shape than a lot of players 10 years younger.

“I’m just glad for this opportunity, man. I feel rejuvenated, there’s just a sense of youth in me right now,” said Joseph, who hung around for a series of wind sprints after everyone else left Thursday’s practice.

CAMP COUNT: New recruit Syndric Steptoe, a receiver out of Arizona who was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2007, joined the minicamp on Thursday to bring the total number of participating Eskimos to 16.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

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