Ed Gainey is looking to exorcise some demons on Sunday afternoon in Ottawa.
About this time two years ago in the east semi-final, a misstep by Gainey sent the Redblacks to the Grey Cup.
The game between the Redblacks and Gainey’s then team, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, was tied in the fourth quarter with just 1:25 remaining.
Ottawa was facing second and 25 when Gainey tripped while covering Redblacks receiver Greg Ellingson and Ellingson ran 93 yards into the end zone to score the game-winning touchdown.
To say it’s not Gainey’s favourite moment to recall is likely an understatement.
“After that season I felt like there weren’t going to be too many teams that would want me on their roster after that,” Gainey said after practice on Thursday.
But there was at least one that did: Roughriders head coach Chris Jones.
Jones signed Ed Gainey in February of 2016 – alongside Otha Foster and Greg Jones – in one of his first moves in free agency.
Jones didn’t see what all the fuss was about.
“It’s one play. I don’t know many of us that can even walk to our car and get into our work without making some kind of error,’ Jones said. “So he played a really good, solid football season that year and unfortunately for him that he made one big glaring play that was negative and that’s all that people remember for whatever reason.”
It was a move that’s paid off for Jones, who has seen Gainey blossom into one of the team’s most dynamic defensive backs.
Last season Gainey had 49 defensive tackles, three interceptions, a touchdown and two forced fumbles. This year, Gainey broke out – especially in the second half – with 10 interceptions and one touchdown, as well as 48 defensive tackles.
Gainey said he owes a great deal of credit to Jones’ faith in him.
“It was motivation for me to work harder in the off-season and get back to the player I knew I could be. Thankfully Coach Jones brought me here and believed in me. That was a start right there to get my confidence back.”
Now with a second playoff chance against Ottawa, Gainey hopes to end the talk of that fateful play two years ago. He said he doesn’t think of it much anymore but it has been bubbling up a bit this week.
“It’s going to be fun,” he continued. “It’s going to be exciting to see what they throw at me. I know they’re going to come at me, especially when they need something, I know they’re going to put (Ellingson) over there and they’re going to come at me so I’m going to be ready.”
And ready is what Gainey has been all season and what has contributed to him being named not only the Riders’ Most Outstanding Defensive Player but also a Western all-star.
“That’s really what I’ve been coming up here and trying to establish is being a household name and letting the league know that I’m an all-star calibre player,” Gainey said. “It feels good, to be honest, I ultimately want to be an all-star but I want to be an all-star on a team that’s making it to the Grey Cup.”
The first step towards that goal starts on Sunday.