Canadian Football League

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Maas hopes to keep starters job.

The sting of criticism is nothing compared to the aches and pains Jason Maas is feeling within his battered body.
The Edmonton Eskimos quarterback underwent shoulder surgery Dec. 2 - his third major trip under the knife in 10 years. He is hoping for a clean bill of health and maybe even a healthy dose of support when the under-achieving team opens camp in June under new head coach Danny Maciocia.
''This is the hardest part of the year, really,'' said Maas, alone but for two other players in the large but empty Eskimos dressing-room this week. ''It's a solitary feeling - and in a team sport. You're on your own to train.''
Maas, 29, had his shoulder in a sling for five weeks to avoid the buildup of scar tissue. He is slowly moving the joint in hopes of throwing by March and being 100 per cent when camp opens.

''I think our team is very close to being very spectacular and doing some great things,'' he said.
But the pain of last season remains acute. After an 0-3 start, the Eskimos clawed their way to an 9-9 finish before losing their first-round playoff contest to Saskatchewan. Edmonton coach Tom Higgins resigned following a storm of controversy three days later, but has since resurfaced in Calgary as the Stampeders coach and vice-president of football operations.
''There was some restless nights all of last season,'' Maas said. ''Your mind is a dangerous thing at times.''
A native of Yuma, Ariz., Maas had a CFL-record 22 straight completions in a July game against Winnipeg before finishing with 5,270 passing yards and 31 touchdowns, second to Montreal's Anthony Calvillo. Maas became just the second Edmonton quarterback to throw for 5,000 yards in a season - Warren Moon was the first.
''People still think I can't play,'' he said. ''Some are wishing Ricky would come back.''
Maas, who also completed the first injury-free 18-game campaign of his five-season career last season, has not been allowed to move on from the constant comparisons to former Eskimos saviour Ricky Ray. Maas replaced Ray, who joined the NFL's New York Jets after leading Edmonton to the 2003 Grey Cup.
Ray spent most of the season on the Jets practice roster but was promoted to the active roster late in the year. He is expected to go to training camp with the NFL team, meaning even if he was cut early it wouldn't be until September before he became available to a CFL team.
Maas says he would not be surprised if the Eskimos tried to sign Ray, his good friend, if Ray became available.
''We talk about it,'' Maas said. ''I'd say everybody (in the CFL) but Montreal and B.C. will bid on him.
''If he comes back up (to Canada), he's going to be here for a while. I know it's going to be hard for me to compete here (if Ray signs). Edmonton will have to decide what to do with me.''
For now, Maas seems to be the No. 1 quarterback in Edmonton.
''We're looking at Jason at quarterback,'' said Eskimos offensive co-ordinator Ron Lancaster Jr., who assumed the job last week and admits he hasn't started making his evaluations. ''To be honest with you I am just happy as heck I found a place to live.
''We haven't really got into the other parts.''
Maas has also had two back operations - at age 19 and 28.
''I feel like I can push pain out of my mind in order to do things,'' Maas said. ''I don't know if I'm ever not in pain, I just deal with it and move on.''
Given that football is a physical game and Maas's medical past, it's likely Maas will feel the effects of playing the game later in his life. But when asked about those consequences, Maas's eyes welled up as he spoke about his father, a police officer who died in the line of duty.
''I'm 29 right now and I have actually outlived my father,'' he said. ''I am living on extended time compared to my father.
''I don't worry about the consequences of playing.''


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