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Thread: Eskimos confident and relaxed approaching gameday...

  1. #1
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    May 2005
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    Attention Eskimos confident and relaxed approaching gameday...


    Green and Gold look to each other in bid to turn around losing season

    By Vicki Hall,
    Edmonton Journal

    CALGARY - Beware the phantom residing in the Edmonton Eskimos dressing room.

    According to Steve Charbonneau, the supernatural presence is responsible for the recent raid of rookie Adam Braidwood's locker -- along with several other practical jokes on Stadium Road.

    "You don't know the phantom? Charbonneau asked a visitor the other day. "He works in strange ways. He targets rookies who deserve it. He has a mind of his own."

    The Green and Gold phantom apparently has a penchant for stealing clothes, soaking them in the cold tub and then icing them in the freezer.

    "The jokes in here never stop," said defensive lineman Charles Alston. "I'm not saying any names, but talk to No. 98 and No. 94. When those two are around, you're liable to find your shorts, your shoes and all your belongings floating in the North Saskatchewan River.

    Charbonneau wears No. 98. Robert Brown wears No. 94. Both deny any wrongdoing.

    "Me?" Charbonneau asked, feigning innocence. "Don't ask me. Ask the phantom."

    Needless to say, there are no visible signs of tension in the igloo. With wild hand gestures, the players argue about college football. They play video games. With equal passion, they debate the deployment of American troops into Iraq and the merits of East Coast sound and West Coast rap.

    At 3-6, their playoff lives are on the line starting today in the Labour Day Classic against the Calgary Stampeders. But the Esks possess a quiet belief in themselves, even if the rest of the country has counted out the defending Grey Cup champions.

    "We don't really concern ourselves with what people think," said wide receiver Ed Hervey.

    "You get people who criticize you and want to doubt you. But most people doing the talking don't have a clue what they're talking about."

    The way Hervey sees it, the Eskimos possess the CFL's top quarterback in Ricky Ray. The receiving corps is blessed with playmakers such Jason Tucker,

    Derrell Mitchell and Trevor Gaylor. The defence is young, but talented and fast. Tony Tompkins is one of the league's most dangerous kick returners, and Sean Fleming is a dependable kicker when the game is on the line.

    And, perhaps most importantly, the Eskimos have yet to turn on each other -- something that happens all too often to underachieving teams.

    "I think you see the influence of the older guys in our locker-room," Fleming said. "There's no panic. There's no fractures in our group. We go to practice. We work hard. There's no bitching and complaining."

    Rahim Abdullah left Edmonton after the 2004 football season, and he departed with a different impression of the team that's made the playoffs for the last 34 years.

    The Calgary rush end figures his new team is much more cohesive than the squad 294 kilometres to the north on the Queen Elizabeth II Highway.

    "We love ourselves down here," Abdullah said. "We love this game. We love this team. It's a family.

    "I don't like the city so much, because it's spread out so far apart. I like Edmonton, the city, better. Everything is right there for you, and it's cheap, too.

    "But I like this team better because the guys are like a family."

    And that wasn't the case in Edmonton?

    "You had individuals in Edmonton who thought they were above the team," he said. "But here, everyone is a team. Edmonton's a great place. We had a great team when were there. But in the end, it just all fell apart."

    Don't go telling the Eskimos they're not family. And don't go telling them they're a collection of washed-up veterans young kids not quite ready for prime time.

    "Look, the expectations that come with being an Edmonton Eskimo are always high," said Gaylor. "Our confidence is still high. We still believe in ourselves, and that's what really matters.

    "We feel we can fight back in the second half of the season and make the playoffs.

    "And look what happened last year when we were third-seed in the playoffs."

    Less than a year ago, the underdog Eskimos beat the Stampeders and the B.C. Lions to advance to the Grey Cup against Montreal.

    They won it all with a 38-35 victory in double overtime at B.C. Place Stadium. And Ray believes they can do it again, provided they put the first half of the season behind them.

    The memory of Winnipeg slotback Milt Stegall scoring a 100-yard touchdown with no time left on the clock must be erased.

    The same goes for the botched hold by Jason Johnson that killed the Eskimos in their last game against the B.C. Lions.

    "Right now, we're not making the plays," Ray said. "In years past, we were the team that was making the plays. It probably has a little to do with confidence.

    "I mean, we lost that Winnipeg game early on, on the last play of the game, and it took a lot out of us. And to lose another one on the last play of the game really affects things that happen in the fourth quarter.

    "We've just got to put those things behind us and know we've got the guys here to be able to get the job done. And when it gets close in the fourth quarter, we've just got to trust each other and go out there and make the plays."

    Sounds simple enough, in theory. But the Esks seem to have angered the football gods this year.

    The Green and Gold just can't seem to catch a break.

    They can only hope the phantom jumped on the team bus with plans to mess with the Stampeders for a change.
    Go Eskies!

  2. #2
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    May 2005
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    Re: Eskimos confident and relaxed approaching gameday...

    Glad to hear that tension is low in the dressing room.

    Go Eskies!

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