Eskimos quarterback Harris shrugs off criticism from Redblacks locker-room
There was no shortage of criticism coming out of the Ottawa Redblacks locker-room directed at Trevor Harris this week.
But the Edmonton Eskimos quarterback, who is facing his former club for the first time since marking his departure from the nation’s capital in off-season free agency, was tight-lipped when it came to sharing his reaction.
“Don’t have one,” he said following Thursday’s walk-through practice.
While he might have been dodging the question, he couldn’t do the same to the bullets fired by former teammates, including Antoine Pruneau, in a Postmedia story published Thursday talking about a locker-room disconnect with Harris, who was with the Redblacks for the past three seasons.
“It doesn’t make him a bad person, but I didn’t like the fact sometimes he was pointing fingers at other guys,” Pruneau said in the piece, which included criticisms ranging from Harris’s off-field demeanour rubbing teammates the wrong way, to how the quarterback left in free agency despite having a verbal agreement in place to remain with the Redblacks.
It all came as a surprise to Harris.
“Very,” he said. “But I don’t have a reaction.”
In fact, Harris didn’t have much to say throughout the entire week when it came to facing his former team.
“I’m an Eskimo, man, and that’s all there is to it,” he said.
That’s not to say Saturday’s game at Commonwealth Stadium is just another one on the calendar for Harris and the 12 other former Redblacks currently under the employ of Eskimos general manager Brock Sunderland, who spent four seasons as Ottawa’s assistant GM.
At one point this year, the Eskimos had 15 former Redblacks on board, seven of which are slated to start for them Saturday.
“I think any time you play a team that you’ve played for in the past and it’s the first time playing them, it’s different. It’s special,” said Eskimos head coach Jason Maas, who, himself, is a former member of the Redblacks coaching staff, getting his first offensive co-ordinating opportunity with them in 2016. “But I can tell you this: They just want to win a football game. Will it mean more? You’d have to ask them.
“But having been in their shoes before, whether it means more or not, you want to win. That’s all they’re concerned about.”
Receiver Greg Ellingson, who spent the past four consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons with Ottawa, said any past relationships get put on hold once the ball gets kicked off.
“I talk to them before the games and after the games, but in those 60 minutes, it’s game time,” said the receiver, who is coming off the one-game injured list (lower body) in time to face his former team.
Kwaku Boateng rose to a starting role in his second year with the Eskimos last season, in no small part to two games where he earned three sacks apiece.
And while the 24-year-old Wilfrid Laurier University product, who was a steal in the fifth round of the 2017 draft, wasn’t able to replicate that career-best feat against the Montreal Alouettes this season, he will get another chance against the other team he ‘struck out’, when he faces the Redblacks on Saturday.
“To be honest with you, I don’t really look at it per game,” said Boateng, who has contributed four sacks to Edmonton’s league-leading tally of 26 on the year. “Obviously, it’s nice to have three sacks, but the goal is to have three sacks against every team.”
At this point in his budding career, Boateng said he doesn’t have a favourite team to play against.
“Not right now, I just like to play football,” he said. “Any time I get an opportunity to get out there and play the game, I’m happy.”
This week’s opportunity comes against an opponent with a new right tackle in six-foot-seven, 318-pound Colorado product Stephane Nembot, who will make his first CFL start.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” Boateng said. “All I know is he’s a professional, that’s why he’s here and I’m sure Ottawa thinks that he’s adequate enough to be out there and perform for them, so I’m not going to take him different from any other player.”
FIGHT FOR FIRST
Any grinding you may have heard as the Calgary Stampeders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers fought over first place in the West Division on Thursday night likely came from the teeth of an Eskimos squad that lost last week’s Battle of Alberta, despite surrendering just 220 net yards of offence and one offensive touchdown.
“We can’t do anything about last week, we’ve moved on from that,” Boateng said of the 24-18 loss that went down to a last-second jump ball in the end zone. “It was a tight game. Obviously, if we cleaned some things up, it shouldn’t have been a tight game.
“We took the loss there and there’s no point in looking back at it.”
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge