EDMONTON — The walking wounded are returning, and the already-potent Edmonton Eskimos offence has added one more weapon to its arsenal.
Four more players came off the team’s lengthy injury list this week and with the addition of former Eskimo and CFL all-star receiver Derel Walker, there’s a lot of positive vibes as Edmonton prepares for its Saturday evening rematch with the Calgary Stampeders.
Coming off the injury list are linebacker Blair Smith, defensive end Phillip Hunt and tackles Euclid Cummings and Da’Quan Bowers.
Head coach Jason Maas was particularly pleased to see Cummings back on the roster.
“The first eight games he played as well as anybody so getting him back is big.”
Maas also noted veteran defensive end John Chick, obtained in a trade last week, had another week to get acclimatized and for the first time since Week 1 there are no changes in the defensive backfield.
The Eskimos were 7-0 to start the season but have been outscored 126-75 on a recent three-game skid, including Monday’s 39-18 loss to the Stampeders. Edmonton’s current run has cast some doubt on if the team is a contender in the tight West Division.
“Whether or not people think we’re a contender, we’re 7-3. I don’t know what you have to be to be a contender in the west,” said quarterback Mike Reilly.
“Its hard to win in this league and we’ve won a lot of games already this year. It’s a matter of operating at a high level like we did for the first seven weeks, like we’re capable of. Do that and we’ll be just fine, we’ll win a lot more games. If we don’t then it’s going to be a tough go week in and week out.”
Defensive lineman Almondo Sewell said it’s not a question of beating a western team anymore, it’s simply that the team needs to stop its losing streak.
“We need a win. We’ve nothing to prove but to ourselves. It’s about beating everybody at this point, doesn’t matter if it’s eastern or western teams.”
The return of Walker, after he was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, could be a huge boost to the team. After two days of practice, he pronounced himself ready.
“I really, really picked up on the offence quickly,” he said after the team’s final walk-through Friday. “I knew the majority of the stuff … just had to remind myself of a few things. Now I’m ready to play some ball.”
In two seasons with the Eskimos — 2015 and 2016 — Walker had 198 receptions for 2,599 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was CFL rookie of the year in 2015 and helped the Eskimos win the Grey Cup that season.