October 3, 2012
Eskimos bursting at the seams with new players
By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - You know it’s bad when the head coach is asked about the two guys who stepped off the plane and had two days of practice and played last week.
“Alex Daniels and, uh, No. 96,” Kavis Reed struggled for a few seconds before coming up with Brandon Lang’s name.
Lang and Daniels were the 67th and 68th players to have played at least one game with the team so far this season.
This week it’s Kade Weston and Kye Stewart.
They’ll likely be the 69th and 70th.
Eric Tillman picked up Weston at the airport a few minutes before midnight Sunday.
The very-much-on-the-hot-seat GM was back at the airport to collect linebacker Stewart’s flight, scheduled to arrive at 11:30 p.m. Monday but which didn’t land until 3:40 a.m.
“If they play Friday, either or both, I will categorically tell you that having been in this league going back to the ‘80s, I have never seen three or four guys, on back-to-back weeks, with no more than a couple days of practice, go straight off the plane into football games like this,” said Tillman.
The Eskimos won Grey Cups in 1954-1955-1956 and in 1978-1979-1980-1981-1982 without likely putting 70 different players on their field combined during each of those runs.
Some sort of study should be done from the time of the most recent Grey Cup in 2005, during the Maciocia-Tillman era, just how many different players have been Edmonton Eskimos.
Right now there are only three members of the team — Mathieu Bertrand, Calvin McCarty and Fred Stamps — who have completed their fourth years here.
But that’s another story for another day.
Through the course of the five-game losing streak which turned a 5-3 team into a 5-8 team, the tremendous turnover has had a great deal to do with injuries, a significant percentage of them in what was supposed to be the area of greatest strength — the defensive line.
There are so many injuries right now that the Eskimos have added more lockers in the state-of-the-art dressing room, already built to accommodate plenty of extra players.
As Reed himself illustrated, there are so many guys around it’s getting hard to remember their names. Indeed, the Eskimos were fined $1,000 last week for forgetting to file Daniels’s contract before putting him on the field for practice.
How did Daniels and, ah, er, No. 96 do in Calgary?
“They played well,” said Reed.
“They didn’t cancel some gaps that resulted in a few long runs by Jon Cornish. But if you asked me how they graded out, my answer would be ‘Excited!’ They showed they could play at a very high level,” he added of the two defensive ends.
While Reed might be close to having players tape their names on their helmets like at training camp, that isn’t the case with Big Kade Weston.
The minute you meet him, he’s unforgettable.
“Bill MacDermott has been a football coach since they wore leather helmets and he did a double take,” said Tillman of the 6-foot-5, 320-pound load who used to play with currently injured Marcus Howard at Georgia and who has been bouncing around NFL practice rosters of the Patriots, Colts and Steelers for the last three years.
“He’s a behemoth of a man,” said Reed.
“It took a while for us to find a helmet to fit him.”
Reed points out that the Eskimos went seven weeks without knocking a pass down and figures this guy could cure that little problem overnight.
“He’ll be a defensive weapon. The sheer size of the guy. He looks like Kimbo Slice of the MMA. Beard. Big head. And the thing is he’s an athlete as well. We put pads on him to see how he moved and he was very impressive. I would not have any reservations about playing him Friday.”
If a sports columnist gets a vote …
This is one guy you’d like to have around. He’s a big, fun-loving fella who is a pretty story.
From Trinidad, Weston moved to New Jersey at age 13.
“When I went to high school I needed to take a physical and the school nurse asked me what sport I played.
“I’m from Trinidad. We have cricket and soccer. I knew they didn’t have no cricket, so I said soccer.
“That nurse said ‘Excuse me, I’ll be back in a minute.’
“She came back with the football coach.
“I immediately liked the contact and roughness of the sport,” he said. “I liked the part where you get to whoop a guy, that part where you get paid to whoop someone.”
Asked about the size of helmet, he laughed.
“I don’t know what size my head is, but I have a lot of brain in there.”
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