Distractions aside, Eskimos face Roughriders on TSN

The Canadian Press
9/26/2009 10:50:04 AM
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EDMONTON - The Edmonton Eskimos, in a three-way dogfight for first in the West Division and bracing for hundreds of rabid Saskatchewan Roughriders fans invading their house this weekend had one more thing to deal with Friday -- burying the hatchet over a shovel.

Eskimos defensive tackle Xzavie Jackson was welcomed back on the practice field after a bizarre fight Thursday with teammate Aaron Fiacconi that led to Jackson going after him with a shovel.

"I'm very disappointed," said Jackson, sporting sunglasses and a bandage over a swollen eye, after the team's final run-through prior to Saturday's game against the Roughriders (6 p.m. ET, TSN).

"That's not me. That's not my character. I know I could've made a better choice. I've apologized to my teammates and that's all."

Fiacconi, the starting centre, said it's all part of the wild emotions of a violent game, but noted, "We have to have some kind of control out there. It got away from us a little bit yesterday and it won't happen again.

"He (Jackson) was angry, justifiably, over what happened. In the end, I doubt he would have done something with the implement. He's a good-headed guy.

"We've made our peace."

The dustup occurred during practice with Fiacconi getting his work in at three-quarter speed while Jackson, a spot starter and practice-squad player, came at him at a much higher tempo.

"They couldn't agree on what pace that team-oriented drill should be played at," said GM Danny Maciocia, who was watching from the sidelines at the time.

Finally, Fiacconi had had enough. Wham wham wham -- he rained fists on Jackson while no teammates intervened.

As media and others looked on Jackson (whose first name is pronounced ex-ZAY-vee) stormed off the field, yelling and whipping off his practice jersey. He walked past a nearby dumpster, spotted a long-handled metal shovel, turned on his heels and stormed back onto the practice field marching toward Fiacconi.

Maciocia, standing nearby, jumped into action, standing in the path of the six-foot four, 240-pound lineman, gently putting his hand on his chest and gesturing to the shovel.

"I just said, 'What are you planning on doing with that? Do you realize the repercussions?' Maciocia said Friday. "I'm almost sure he had already come to that conclusion.

"I don't think he would have carried out an incident where he would have swung a shovel and tried to strike someone."

Head coach Richie Hall, defensive co-ordinator Jim Daley and trainer T.D. Forss also stepped in to calm down the 25-year-old from Vallejo, Calif., who was signed in March after brief stints in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals.

Maciocia said given the fact it was a heat-of-the-moment, on-field scrap and not the resolution of some long simmering feud between the players, it was agreed after a meeting with Hall to shake hands and move on.

Hall, in a news conference, said it's unfortunate the matter had to be dealt with publicly at all.

"I think when it comes to dirty laundry, there are things that should remain behind closed doors," he said.

He bristled slightly when asked that, given there are no consequences for Jackson, it could signal the Eskimos ultimately tolerate such behaviour.

"I know the players know that it's not tolerated," he said.

The Eskimos are coming off a heart-stopping 31-27 win over the Riders in Regina last week. They look to sweep the season series Saturday and keep pace in the Western Conference as the season enters the stretch run.

Saskatchewan, Calgary and Edmonton are all at 6-4, with the B.C. Lions one game back at 5-6.

Saskatchewan head coach Ken Miller said last-week's crowd-silencing game-winning 68-yard touchdown pass from Eskimo quarterback Ricky Ray to Maurice Mann with 80 seconds to go "was devastating."

"Revenge for me isn't a good motivator, but on the other hand knowing we had an opportunity to win and have an opportunity to win this coming game can be internal motivation," he said.

About 54,000 tickets have been sold and Saskatchewan's watermelon-headed faithful are expected to be there en masse and in full voice.

"It feels good, especially in a situation where they (the Eskimos) may have a little momentum," said quarterback Darian Durant. "For our fans to be here, it shows the support of this organization, and shows the steps we're taking to become one of the elite teams in this league."

NOTES: Eskimo kick-returner Tristan Jackson and safety Scott Gordon, both coming off knee injuries, are close to returning to the lineup but are not expected to play Saturday.

Edmonton Eskimos (Photo: CFL)


(Photo: CFL)
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