Shootout will feature top receiving corps
By SCOTT ZERR, EDMONTON SUN
It's bound to be a good ol' fashioned western shootout when the Edmonton Eskimos take on the Calgary Stampeders in the season opener Saturday night.
How could it not be a showcase of offensive firepower? Both teams have quality quarterbacks who will be throwing to the top two receiving corps in the CFL. But which team has the best hands in the business?
Lining them up, the Stamps offer Nik Lewis, Jermaine Copeland, free-agent pickup Elijah Thurmon and Ken-Yon Rambo - who racked up 27 touchdowns and 4,427 yards in 2005. The Esks counter with Derrell (Mookie) Mitchell, Ed Hervey, Jason Tucker and Trevor Gaylor - a combined 21 TDs and 4,086 yards one year ago. The Esks feel they've got the better men, but they refuse to come right out and say it. They'd rather let their fingers do the talking.
No, not the middle ones. The ring fingers speak much louder.
"You can debate who's got the best for a long time, but I know one thing: We've got championships and we've got hardware," said Hervey.
"We're not concerned about going out there and being 1, 2, 3, 4 in stats. We're not interested in going into the end zone and dancing or making any outrageous comments about how great we are. The way we work together we always find a way to get fitted for rings.
"The Stampeders have phenomenal receivers with great playmaking abilities. I have nothing negative to say about them. You can measure a group by stats, which we'll take, or by wins and losses and all-star ballots but ultimately it comes down to how many rings you have. So far our group has the most."
It doesn't seem like enough, especially considering the volatility of the Battle of Alberta, but that's as much trash talk there's going to be from the Eskimo receivers.
That's not to say, however, that deep down they wouldn't want to let some more juicy comments fly.
"It probably would be fun and give the game a big boost," admitted Mitchell. "I've always been one who enjoys sitting back and watching. I love listening to the younger guys and they're doing all the rah-rah-rah, but if you're going to do that you've got to be able to back it up."
Mitchell has certainly backed it up over his 10-year career, during which he's set two CFL records, been an all-star three times and racked up 90 touchdowns on nearly 11,000 yards in receptions.
He's also been a cool cucumber when it comes to keeping his wits about him while the jawing and taunting goes on around him.
KEEP IT DOWN
"You maintain it by just going out and doing your job," said Mitchell. "If an opposing team's receivers go out and talk they have to go out and prove it. If they don't prove it then it's a big slap in the face.
"We tell the new receivers not to get into a shouting match because that's not how it's done around here."
As a whole the team benefits from the receivers' talents. But no one has more to gain out of the arsenal at his disposal than quarterback Ricky Ray.
"We've been lucky not having to rely on one guy," said Ray. "Defences can't focus on one guy thinking that if they have him covered, we've got nobody else to throw to. My job is to get the ball to whoever I can as quick as I can and let them do the work."