CFL Pass

Eskimos dealing with injuries out of the gates

There’s an old adage in football that says a team is never as healthy as on Day 1 of training camp.

And, unfortunately, the Edmonton Eskimos have proven the rule as they head into Friday’s season opener against the visiting Montreal Alouettes (7 p.m., TSN, 630 CHED) with an already populated injured list.

Injuries of varying degrees – all the way from season-ending to still dressing, but in a backup role – have affected six of the players the Eskimos had pencilled in to start the season.

“Our injury bug’s hit a little bit, but we’ve dealt with it during the week and felt like we’ve had a great week of practice with the guys who were in there,” said Eskimos head coach Jason Maas. “They’re prepared to play.”

Nick Usher will start at defensive end in place of Alex Bazzie, who has been placed on the one-game injured list, while newcomer Vontae Diggs will start as outside linebacker with free-agent acquisition Jovan Santos-Knox on the one-game injured list as he continues to deal with a foot injury from last season. And Canadian cornerback Godfrey Onyeka is slated to start in place of Arjen Colquhoun, who has been in and out of training camp with health issues and may end up getting scratched Friday.

On offence, Canadian O-lineman Jacob Ruby is starting at left guard in place of Travis Bond, who is on the one-game injured list, which as a by-product, allows the Eskimos to start a fourth American in the secondary, where Money Hunter is suiting up at safety.

And Canadian receiver Tevaun Smith is starting in place of one-game injured wide-out DaVaris Daniels, while Tommie Draheim will start at left tackle for free-agent acquisition SirVincent Rogers, who underwent surgery to his triceps in training camp and is on the six-game injured list.

Also on the six-game injured list is Canadian linebacker Christophe Mulumba-Tshimanga, running back Shaq Cooper, rookie fullback Peter Cender, receiver Josh Stangby, defensive lineman Andrew Marshall and Canadian receiver Anthony Parker, whose season ended with a ruptured Achilles in the pre-season.

Return man Martese Jackson is week to week.

WARM RECEPTION

Former Eskimos star receiver Fred Stamps will be honoured with a halftime retirement ceremony Friday.

Stamps, who finished top three in club history with 496 catches for 7,932 yards, will watch the game from the familiar home sideline of Commonwealth Stadium, where he spent eight of his nine CFL seasons, before being traded to Montreal.

In April, Stamps signed a one-day contract to officially retire as a member of the Eskimos.

“We talked to the group about what Fred’s done here and the fact of how he really wanted to retire an Eskimo and for a legend to come back,” said Maas, whose final three seasons as a quarterback were spent with Stamps in Edmonton. “Fred is one of those legendary players that played here, he made his impact on Edmonton. He was a great receiver for us for a number of years leading the league in receiving, leading the club in receiving and being there every day.

“I mean, he’s tough as they come with some of the things he’s had to deal with in his career. So I think a lot of the guys who are old enough to know him and have watched him play understand him, but even younger guys, when you look through our record books, his name’s all over it as a receiver. It means something when those guys get invited back and I think it shows the organization, bringing guys like that back, you always want to do well by the guys who have done it the right way here before.”

Other Eskimos alumni also in attendance Friday will be quarterback Damon Allen, receiver Andrew Nowacki and coverage linebacker Kenny Ladler.

OPEN BOOK

Just how much of the Eskimos’ extensive playbook is open to Trevor Harris as the quarterback takes to the field for his first regular-season game with his new team Friday.

Well, that’s an easy one:

“All of it,” said Maas. “Everything that we’ve done from Day 1 with him is open. We’ve got three weeks we’ve been together, so we’re as good as we can be three weeks into anything.

“I feel like we’re prepared, we’re ready and, ultimately, early in a season and particularly this game, it’s going to be about adjustments. We’re going to have to adjust on the fly to what we see and what we get and I think a veteran quarterback with an offensive personnel that’s been there, done that – and with some coaches on the sidelines that have been there and done that – we know what it’s like to adjust early.”

It’s not just what they’ll do, it’s what they will have to do.

“That being said, Trevor’s comfortable in the system right now,” Maas said. “I think he’s only going to get more comfortable the more reps he takes and the more games that go by, but he’s ready to play, in my opinion.”

Email: gmoddejonge@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge

Source: torontosun.com