EDMONTON — The Ottawa Redblacks will take a passel of ex-Eskimos and a collective chip on their shoulder when they go for their first CFL franchise win Friday.
“I’m not going to give you the politically correct answer,” Ottawa linebacker T.J. Hill told reporters Thursday after the 0-1 Redblacks arrived at Commonwealth Stadium. “No disrespect to the Blue Bombers a but we definitely feel like we let that one slip away.
“We’ve got to finish, and there’s no excuses.”
The Redblacks jumped out to a 21-7 lead in their opener in Winnipeg last week, but multiple penalties and big mistakes on special teams allowed the Blue Bombers to stage a 36-28 comeback win.
Hill is one of eight former Edmonton Eskimos on the Ottawa roster for Friday’s game.
Hill was a veteran and a longtime locker-room leader for the Eskimos, but was let go in the off-season as the team remodelled its defence under new head coach Chris Jones.
Hill said he doesn’t feel any added incentive to win on his former home turf against his old mates.
“I’m always fired up to just have the opportunity to play,” he said.
Not so for fellow Redblack and former Eskimos receiver Marcus Henry, who was picked up by Ottawa after failing a training camp medical in Edmonton.
Henry was asked if he was OK with how things ended for him in Edmonton.
“At first no, I wasn’t OK with it. It was (a) surprise to me, too,” he said. “But coming through the locker-room after I got released, the guys picking me up and stuff, I got over it pretty quick.
But it still stings a bit, he added.
“Whenever you get released by a team and you go back and play them, there’s always a chip on your shoulder,” he said.
The ex-Eskimos are also in the Ottawa coaching ranks, including head coach Rick Campbell, a former longtime assistant with Edmonton.
He said they need to reduce the penalties and protect the football from an Edmonton defence that has already intercepted seven balls en route to a 2-0 record.
“We need to take care of the football,” said Campbell.
Against Winnipeg, the Redblacks were flagged 16 times for 120 yards and gave up big plays on special teams.
A 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Winnipeg’s Demond Washington left the Blue Bombers just two points down with more than 10 minutes to play. On the Eskimos side, quarterback Mike Reilly said they need to execute better in the red zone.
So far the Eskimos have scored three TDs in seven trips inside the 20-yard line.
Reilly said it’s not a question of plays or play calling, but execution.
“You have to have better focus when you’re down in the red zone,” he said. “Things happen so much faster in the red zone. There’s very small room for error when you’re down there and so you have to be very precise in your plays.
“The opportunities are there. We just have to take advantage of them.”
As for familiarity, Edmonton safety Chris Rwabukamba said it will be nice to see old teammates return — up to a point.
“It’s fun playing against guys that you know, but when you step on that field, the No. 1 thing you want to do is win,” said Rwabukamba.
Notes: Eskimos linebacker JC Sherritt is out with an undisclosed injury. He’ll be replaced by Dexter MCoil.