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Friday, July 8, 2016

CHRIS WHO? ESKIMOS NOT CONCERNED ABOUT JONES RETURN

Jones in Edmonton Thursday
EDMONTON - When Chris Jones brings his Saskatchewan Roughriders into Commonwealth Stadium Friday evening he's likely to be greeted by cheers from some fans for bringing a Grey Cup to Edmonton last season, booed by others for deserting the Eskimos so shortly afterwards, or a combination of both reactions.

What he won't get from the Eskimo players is any reaction at all. To them Jones made a business decision and now he's just another coach they want to beat.

"I really don't care, that's about as much as I want to talk about it,'' defensive lineman Almondo Sewell said of Jones departure and return.

"It's business, man, just business,'' added running back Calvin McCarty, the longest-serving Eskimo on the roster. "He had a great opportunity to go elsewhere. There's a lot of guys who had opportunity to do stuff elsewhere but chose to be here and be an Eskimo. We have a lot of guys who believe in the Eskimo way and are here for a reason. If you don't want to be here, you don't have to be here. That's his choice.''

Or, as defensive end Marcus Howard put it: "If someone offers you a dollar and someone else offers up a hundred bucks I'm pretty sure you're going to take that hundred bucks. I know I would. So I'm not going to say he's not loyal? Coach Jones is just a thing of the past.''

For his part, Chris Jones has had enough of the talk of his departure from the City of Champions.

"You know what, I'm tired of talking about all that," Jones said upon his team's arrival at Commonwealth Stadium on Thursday.  "I'm here to coach a football game, so no comment."

More important to the Eskimos is that they rebound from their opening week, 45-37 overtime loss to the Ottawa Redblacks and that the defence gets rid of the mental mistakes that ultimately led to that loss.

"That's a lot of young, dumb mistakes,'' Sewell said of the Week 1 performance. "We've all been playing for a while and when we saw it on game film we couldn't believe we actually did it.''

In fairness, that defence is minus five starters from last season. Defensive lineman Willie Jefferson, linebacker Dexter McCoil and defensive back Aaron Grymes all earned NFL contracts, linebacker Otha Foster, followed Jones to Saskatchewan and 2015 CFL All-Star cover man John Ojo went down with a season-ending Achilles injury in training camp.

Both teams are coming off season-opening losses in which their defences made costly mistakes that contributed to the defeats.

The good news for the defending Grey Cup champions is they had a week off to digest their performance and figure out what to do to try ensure it doesn't happen this week. Although teams would normally not want their bye week after just one game, the time off could prove beneficial.

"Based on everything that occurred it is,'' said defensive co-ordinator Mike Benevides, under pressure to get the Edmonton defence playing as well as it did last season under Jones. "It gives you a chance to evaluate, a chance to spend more time together. There's some positions where there's some youth, some young people, so we had a chance to spend more time with them.

"We tried to spend as much time as we could in the classroom talking football, understanding situations and by doing that I think it helped the guys.''

Plus, he added, rest is always good, especially after the tough training camp the Eskimos had.

"Training camp was kind of different this year,'' said Howard. "We had a new coaching staff and they wanted to put their stamp on things. And guys ? wanted to prove themselves to the new coaches so we all went hard. I know myself I was a bit tired ? so for me it was a good break. It sucks we have to go 14 weeks in a row but it was a good break.''

(Canadian Press)

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