June 18, 2017 6:55 pm

Eskimos brass confident with their roster to begin the season

Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Zach Kline (14) throws against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the second half of CFL action in Winnipeg on June 15, 2017.

John Woods/Canadian Press
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Edmonton Eskimos head coach Jason Maas says he’s been thinking about Saturday, June 17 for the last three months. A day later, Maas feels very good about the team he will field in 2017.

“Since we created our roster that we were going to go to camp with, there’s not been a moment I haven’t thought about this point of creating the team and going out and seeing how well they can do,” Maas said. “I slept like a baby last night — that’s the first time in three months that I’ve slept that good.”

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On Saturday night, the Eskimos released 23 players and set their practice roster. The Eskimos will begin their CFL regular season schedule June 24 in Vancouver against the B.C. Lions (8 p.m., 630 CHED).

READ MORE: Edmonton Eskimos make final roster cuts 

Eskimos general manager and vice-president of football operations Brock Sunderland says the players didn’t make the roster decision easy on him in his first training camp as the man who makes the final decisions.

“It ranks right up there with the best of them, and that’s a really good problem to have,” Sunderland said. “There’s some guys that we let go that we know can play. Roster stipulations are what they are — we can’t keep them all. There’s several we would have liked to have kept, [and] we told them that. There’s guys we indicated to that, ‘Hey, if things happen, or there’s injuries, or whatever happens, we’ll call you back.'”

 

 

Two players familiar with the Eskimos, offensive lineman D’Anthony Batiste and receiver Kenny Stafford, signed with the team on Saturday and were placed on the team’s practice roster. Batiste wasn’t re-signed by the team in the off season, but will join the Eskimos for his fourth season. Stafford was released by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers yesterday and quickly signed with the Eskimos. Sunderland feels both players will make the team better.

“First and foremost, [both are] good football players. We’re always going to do the best we can to bring the best talent here, and what’s best for the organization,” Sunderland said. “D’Anthony Batiste has been a starter, he’s a long-term vet that knows the offence. He’s a great person in the locker room. Kenny Stafford, the same thing — he was let go by Winnipeg and we reached out to one of our scouts right away and said he had an interest in coming back.”

READ MORE: Eskimos rally to tie Blue Bombers 38-38 in last game of pre-season

The most notable cut from Saturday was veteran running back and kick-returner Kendial Lawrence, who was a high-profile free-agent signing in the off-season. Maas said the other running backs in camp showed some abilities he couldn’t pass up, but the door remains open for Lawrence if the Eskimos should need him later in the season.

“You never know through the course of 18 to 21 games when you’re going to need a player of his calibre,” Maas said. “It’s not that he didn’t do all the right things — it’s [that] some of the guys did some things that we felt were better suited for what we do. We’re more excited about some of the opportunities that they possess for us. That’s more of what it came down to, and less of what Kendial can do for us.”

 

 

The Eskimos will begin preparing on Tuesday for their 2017 regular season opener.

 

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