It's a different 1-5

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

Jason Maas isn't hiding his feelings on coming back to Edmonton.

"I'm excited to go," he quickly said into the phone yesterday from Hamilton.

"Everyone in Edmonton knows how I feel about them."

The latest instalment in the Maas love affair will be held on Saturday when the ultra-popular quarterback returns to Commonwealth Stadium as his Tiger-Cats battle the Edmonton Eskimos. (7:30 p.m., CHED)

Adored by Edmonton fans - especially after playing such a key role in the Esks' drive to the 2005 Grey Cup - Maas also has a very special tie to the Green and Gold organization.

But much more importantly to Maas at the moment, his current team in Hamilton is in better shape than last year.

"I know our record is the same (as last year)," continued Maas, referring to identical 1-5 marks from last year to this year, "but the resolve (of this team) - it feels a little different."

The Tabbies are coming off their first victory of the year last weekend, pounding the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 43-22.

While running back Jesse Lumsden and the offensive line certainly get plenty of credit, so does Maas.

He went 16-for-21 for 220 yards and three touchdowns in the win. Plus, he didn't throw an interception.

"I'm healthier (this year)," said Maas, who had surgery on his throwing arm in December for a detached bicep.

"My shoulder is getting better every week."

While his completion percentage (61.8) could be better and his touchdown to interception ratio is even with five each, his passing stats are looking better than last year.

"He is playing well," said Edmonton head coach Danny Maciocia, who believes he is looking at the Maas of old.

"It seems like he has a pretty good understanding of what is going on offensively.

"And it was just a question of time with him.

"He has been through so many (offensive) co-ordinators over the last couple of years.

"You need to be sympathetic with what he has had to go through."

And the Eskimos know that Maas is very capable of having his best game of the season against Edmonton.

The remark has been made around town that this game will be Maas's 2007 Grey Cup in his old stomping grounds.

He doesn't agree with that strong statement, but...

"It's big every time I come back to Edmonton," said the eight-year CFL veteran, who spent six seasons with the Esks.

Traded at the end of the 2005 season from Edmonton to Hamilton, Maas came back to torch the Esks last fall during a 20-18 victory at Commonwealth Stadium - throwing for 388 yards.

In fact, Edmonton lost both games to Hamilton last year - helping put the nails in the coffin of a disastrous season.

The last thing Edmonton wants is for Maas to go 3-0 against his former club this weekend.


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