EDMONTON – Jobs could be on the line Friday night when the winless Edmonton Eskimos take on the B.C. Lions at Commonwealth Stadium.
Off to an 0-4 start after a 47-21 loss to Winnipeg last week, the Eskimos were publicly read the riot act by president Rick LeLacheur, who questioned his team’s mental and physical toughness and promised changes from the top down without a reversal of fortune against the 1-3 Lions.
The Eskimos have been called out. It’s time for them to play and have their say.
“It was a call out from a man to another man,” linebacker Maurice Lloyd said of LeLacheur’s remarks. “Each man has to take it upon himself how they took it. I took it not as an insult, but a call out. Any man calls me out, I’m going to answer to it.”
LeLacheur didn’t pull his punches after the Eskimos lost their fourth straight game. A loss to the Lions on Friday night (TSN, 8:30 p.m. ET) will see Richie Hall’s team match the worst start in franchise history, an 0-5 skid by the 1965 Eskimos.
“That was such an embarrassment on Saturday,” LeLacheur said. “When we did our review, one of the things I can tell you, I questioned football operations and the coaches if we were mentally or physically tough enough. I don’t think we are. That can be changed.”
Tough talk for tough times.
“It this doesn’t light our fire, then what will?” Hall said. “There is a real sense of urgency. Not a sense of panic, but a sense of urgency that we’ve got to get going.
“You understand that, during the course of a game, something bad is going to happen. How strong are we going to be to withstand that? Can we take a punch and not wilt? Can we take a punch, have a strong chin and deliver a punch back?”
Lack of execution and mistakes, like a fumble by receiver Kelly Campbell against the Blue Bombers, have contributed to the start, but it’s LeLacheur’s reference to physical and mental toughness that resonated in the locker-room this week.
“You’re going to get a reaction,” Lloyd said. “If another man calls me soft, I’m coming out here the next time and I’m going to show him I’m not soft.
“Each man in here understands it’s an insult to certain ones, it’s a call out to certain players. We’re all one, so if one (player) feels it’s an insult, everybody feels it’s an insult. For a person to call you soft, it’s a big call out.”
The Lions got the Eskimos off on the wrong foot, opening the season with a 25-10 win in Vancouver. The Eskimos followed that up with a 33-23 loss to the Montreal Alouettes and a 24-20 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders before the no-show in Winnipeg.
“Nobody goes out there to try and make mistakes,” said quarterback Ricky Ray, who has taken some heat for having just three touchdown passes and four interceptions through four games. “It’s part of the football game.
“Yes, we need to clean it up and have a little more accountability and eliminate those things we’re doing, but everybody can control their effort, their heart, their desire and go out and play hard.”
In the end, what LeLacheur — or anybody for that matter — said this week won’t decide Friday’s outcome. Talk never does.
“What happens during the course of the week, you talk about it. It’s great,” Hall said. “The bottom line is how you respond and how you go out there and play. That’s what everyone is waiting for.
“There’s times I’ve felt we were prepared. We had a good week of practice and we were mentally set. We go out and start off well. All of a sudden, something bad happens and we kind of crumble.
“When it’s all said and done, we’ve talked all we can talk during the course of the week. It’s about going out there and playing and backing up what we say we can do.”
Expect the Eskimos to make at least one lineup change on both sides of the ball. On offence, Jeremy Parquet will be inserted at right tackle in place of Joe McGrath.On defence, Adam Braidwood will come off the practice roster and start at tackle for Justin Brown. With rookie Saleem Borhot out with a strained groin, Jason Nugent will start at safety.