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Don’t underestimate Ottawa RedBlacks, Greg Ellingson says

Ottawa Redblacks' Juron Criner (86) celebrates his touchdown against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats with teammate Greg Ellingson (82) during first half CFL action on Friday, Oct. 21, 2016 in Ottawa. Suiting up for the Grey Cup is becoming pretty familiar for Ellingson.


Suiting up for the Grey Cup is becoming pretty familiar for Greg Ellingson.

The 6-foot-3, 197-pound receiver will appear in his third Grey Cup game in four years Sunday when the Ottawa RedBlacks face the Calgary Stampeders at BMO Field. He's been on the roster for the East Division's last four representatives but didn't play in 2014 with Hamilton because of injury.

It was Ellingson's 93-yard touchdown catch on second-and-25 that earned Ottawa a thrilling 35-28 home win over Hamilton in last year's East Division final.

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"Kind of seems that way," Ellingson said with a chuckle when asked if reaching the Grey Cup is becoming an annual rite of passage. "A little bit of luck, I guess, but also just being around great coaches and great teams."

Ellingson has yet to play for a Grey Cup winner, and victory won't come easily against a Calgary team that posted a CFL-best 15-2-1 record and beat the B.C. Lions 42-15 in the West Division final.

"It's unfortunate I haven't been to get one yet, but that really motivates me and makes me want to come out here every day and practise hard," Ellingson said. "I'm looking forward to Sunday, having a chance to bring this back to Ottawa.

"Calgary is a deserving team. They won a lot of games this year, they're a sound defence and have a lot of depth and their offence puts up points. We have a challenge, we're going to have to put up points to keep up with them if they happen to do that, and that is the focus."

Ellingson has enjoyed a productive start to his CFL career. The former Florida International star has registered 229 catches for 3,550 yards (15.2-yard average) with 19 TDs over four seasons with Hamilton (2013-14) and Ottawa (2015-16).

While Calgary dominated the CFL, Ottawa captured first in a weak East Division with an 8-9-1 record. But the RedBlacks advanced to their second successive Grey Cup game with a 38-23 home win over Edmonton in the division final.

Not only did Ottawa avenge last year's 26-20 Grey Cup loss to Edmonton but also finished the season 3-0 against the defending Grey Cup champions.

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Last season, Ottawa was happy to just reach the Grey Cup game. But Ellingson, a 27-year-old Tampa, Fla., native, said the team's mindset now is completely different.

"We won the East and it's not really going to mean that much if we don't bring a Grey Cup to Ottawa," he said. "You could feel it in the locker-room with the guys [that] we weren't as excited as we were last year to win the East.

"We're pumped that we're here but the focus is to get the win for the Grey Cup."

Ottawa was 0-1-1 versus Calgary this season but will have a different wrinkle to present the Stampeders.

Veteran Henry Burris will start Sunday after backup Trevor Harris appeared in the two regular-season matchups.

Burris, 41, is completing his 17th CFL season and last year was the league's outstanding player. He's also a two-time Grey Cup champion and, like Ellingson, is appearing in his third championship game in four years.

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"He's been around the league a long time," Ellingson said. "He's been here several times and won.

"You can look to him if you have any questions on and off the field. He's a leader for us."

Ottawa will also give Calgary's defence a deep, versatile receiving corps to cover. Ellingson (76 catches, 1,60 yards), Chris Williams (77 catches, 1,246 yards, 10 TDs), Ernest Jackson (88 catches, 1,225 yards, 10 TDs) and Brad Sinopoli (90 catches, 1,036 yards, nine TDs) all cracked the 1,000-yard plateau for a second straight season.

It marked the first time in CFL history that four receivers on the same team had achieved the milestone in consecutive seasons.

Ellingson and Co. won't have to endure the wintry conditions they saw Sunday at TD Place. The weather forecast for Sunday calls for a high of 4C with partial cloud and just a 30-per-cent chance of precipitation.

"That's a great thing," Ellingson said. "[Last weekend] was the most harsh weather I've played in. It was a slippery surface.

"I look forward to it being 4C and partly cloudy. That sounds like a good Nov. 27 day. Let's go."

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