June 13, 2012
Esks to test Jyles for starter role
By ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - Steven Jyles is starting to look and feel pretty good out there.
Maybe not Ricky Ray good, but that was never part of his job description.
Through almost two weeks of Edmonton Eskimos training camp, he’s Steven Jyles good, and that’s all they can ask of him right now.
“In practice he’s definitely been on the rise in terms of his performance and comfort with the system, we’re very happy about that,” said head coach Kavis Reed, eager to see what Jyles can do in the upcoming pre-season game with Calgary. “We’re going to really use Friday’s game as a litmus test for where he is.”
So far, as he grows accustomed to his new teammates and surroundings, Jyles likes the feel of his new situation.
“I feel pretty good about everything,” said the 29-year-old, who came to Edmonton in the controversial off-season deal with Toronto. “I’m starting to make more plays with the guys and the chemistry is starting to get there. I’m just looking to get better day by day.”
While Jyles hasn’t officially been named this season’s starting quarterback yet, that’s what he is. And he’s well aware that the already lofty expectations of being an Eskimos quarterback will be magnified by the fact he’s the Eskimos quarterback they traded Ricky Ray for.
“I was here once before (2007) so I kind of know the expectations of playing on this team,” he said. “You can never make the city of Edmonton forget who Ricky Ray is, he brought this team two championships. My objective is to get the city to understand that I am an elite quarterback in this league. I have to come out and prove it this year by winning ball games for the city of Edmonton.”
An objective he says he can reach by being Steven Jyles good.
“Coming to an environment like this, with a ton of talent around, I understand that I don’t have to try and do everything on my own. If I get the ball into my playmakers’ hands, it’s a ton of pressure that lifts off you.
“We have a ton of talent here and the guys here are very explosive, we just have to put everything together and create big plays on the field.”
Jyles admits he’s had a stunted career as a starter — 11 games around Buck Pierce injuries two years ago in Winnipeg and eight games around his own last year in Toronto — but he says he’s ready now to be a difference maker.
“I came to Winnipeg not really knowing what it took to be a starter,” he said. “And after the Winnipeg season I understood and I grew as a quarterback to know what it takes to be a leader and a quarterback in the CFL.
“Last season in Toronto, mentally I was ready to be a starter, it’s just that physically it was a problem. Now, having a chance to be 100% healthy and having a great group of guys around me, all you have to do is be a leader.”
After lighting into the players for Monday’s lethargic practice, Reed gathered the troops at mid-field again on Tuesday, this time to tell them how he pleased he is with the turnaround.
“Absolutely,” said Reed. “To be quite honest, I told the guys that this was our best day of practice in terms of execution and tempo and enthusiasm. I’m absolutely pleased with how they responded after a disappointing day yesterday.”
He credits his leadership group with helping to steer things in a better direction.
“Those guys are really taking charge of that locker room. We have a lot of unfamiliar faces with the way we do things and they’re starting to teach them and those guys are responding very well. We expect they will continue to do things the right way.”
PREDICTION OF THE DECADE
Reed might have been the only person in North America, maybe the world, who predicted an L.A. Kings Stanley Cup victory over the New Jersey Devils.
But he did. In a TV interview before the playoffs started, Reed told CTV the Kings would beat the Devils in June.
“It was noted on film,” he laughed. “Where’s the CTV guy?”
Anchor/reporter Adam Cook confirmed the prediction, but Reed isn’t feeling all that smart about it.
“No, because I didn’t make any bets on it,” he joked. “I feel like an idiot.”