Business as usual for Eskimos players and coaches in wake of Tillman firing
Stamps said nothing will change in locker-room
Fred Stamps comes down with the ball against Jamar Wall as the Edmonton Eskimos battle the Calgary Stampeders in the final game of the regular season at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, November 2, 2012.
Photograph by: Bruce Edwards, Edmonton Journal
EDMONTON - Monday will be business as usual for Fed Stamps.
The Edmonton Eskimos slotback and face of the franchise said on Sunday night that the firing of Eric Tillman wouldn’t have an impact on him or any of his teammates this week.
Tillman was relieved of his general manager duties on Saturday, eight days before the Eskimos travel to Toronto to face Ricky Ray and the Argonauts at Rogers Centre.
In reuniting Ray and his former team, the Canadian Football League’s East Division semifinal is poised to be the most dramatic game of the post-season.
There’s been a lot of talk about the timing of Tillman’s dismissal and whether it would provide a distraction to the team as it goes into Toronto. Stamps, who finished second in the league with 1,310 receiving yards, doesn’t see it that way.
“Our main focus this week is Toronto,” he said. “Whatever goes on with the front office or whatever, that’s their job. Whatever happens in the locker-room, that’s our job.
“Our main focus right now is on Toronto and trying to just get a good game plan together and have a good week of practice.”
Eskimos president and CEO Len Rhodes declared himself the man who fired Tillman on Saturday. He said the timing of the decision would only help the Eskimos this week.
“I think our head coach (Kavis Reed) and his coaching staff and the players have to be focused on what’s going on going into Toronto,” he said during Saturday’s press conference to announce Tillman’s firing. “Now we’ve hit the reset button, everyone’s on the same page and we’re going to give it our best shot.”
Since he was often out of town anyway — Tillman stayed in hotels when he was in Edmonton over the 26 months that he ran the team and split the rest of his time between his home in Regina and his parents’ home in Mississippi — his absence won’t be much different this week.
Tillman wasn’t often in the locker-room anyway when he was in his office at Commonwealth Stadium.
“That’s on the business end of the deal,” Stamps said of Tillman’s firing. “We don’t really deal with (the GM), we only see our coaches. We don’t really get into what goes on in the front office.”
Eskimos fans have been critical of head coach Kavis Reed for some of his on-field decisions, but Stamps is an adamant supporter of the coach. When Reed wasn’t shouldering numerous responsibilities across the board for this year, including chunks of the general manager’s job it was alleged during Saturday’s press conference, he’s done a masterful job of keeping the locker-room together in a losing season.
“He keeps all that (negativity) outside the locker-room,” Stamps said. “We didn’t let any of that go on. That’s one of the good things about our locker room … whatever’s (externally) said, it stops at the door. It doesn’t come in.”
Stamps stood by Reed and the rest of an Eskimos coaching staff that came about as close as it could get to being blown up this season through a five-game losing streak.
“It’s all of our coaches doing a good job of keeping all of us on a calm level,” he said. “Having us go out there and, if we lose a game, we’re going to come back and prepare even harder to win the next game.
“Don’t mistake (Reed’s) kindness for weakness. He isn’t always happy. You know when he means business … he does a good job of managing our locker-room and keeping us sane.”
Once again this week, there’s much to tune out externally for the Eskimos. There’s also much to sort out internally. Will Matt Nichols, who has started two games in his three-year CFL career but shown tremendous chemistry with his receivers — Stamps in particular — get the start on Sunday in Toronto? Or will Reed look to a rested Kerry Joseph, who at 39 has the experience to handle the pressures of a playoff matchup?
Is tailback Hugh Charles healthy enough to play, or will Cory Boyd and Jerome Messam split carries like they successfully did on Friday against the Calgary Stampeders?
“It’s not going to be easy,” Stamps said. “You just know that it’s business time, especially this week going into the playoffs, you’re not guaranteed another week.”
Whatever awaits the Eskimos, this week promises to be a remarkable one.
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