Lumsden era over in Edmonton

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:03 PM ET

EDMONTON - As an Edmonton Eskimo, Jesse Lumsden had more press conferences than carries.

More conference calls than catches.

And Wednesday was the last one.

The biggest signing of the season last year and the biggest story of their off-season, Lumsden was released after a season which ended in the first quarter of his first game.

Maybe this isn't 'The End.' Come September or even later in the coming CFL season, injuries or an ineffective running game might result in somebody giving the injury-plagued player one last chance to carry a football again.

But it won't be like it was here last year where his signing was celebrated with a poster-boy promotion and created excitement in the city where he was born and where father Neil played with the five-in-a-row Grey Cup glory gang. Next time it will be as a rent-a-running-back by somebody needing a quick fix and willing to take a short term chance that Lumsden could go the last few games of the season without suffering another shoulder injury.

Nobody is going to be able to ever again sell the sizzle like Edmonton did last year. Nobody is ever again going to be able to hype the hope like the Eskimos did that Lumsden could leave his history of being injury-prone behind him in Hamilton and fast forward to being the ultimate ratio-changing superstar Canadian.

The Eskimos got their money's worth from Lumsden as a promotional vehicle.

He proved himself to be a young man of tremendous character this past season as he turned his negative into the unbelievable positive of becoming a world class bobsledder in a single season. He became an Olympian with a pair of fifth place finishes.

But that was February. This is May. And he can't play.

Wednesday the Eskimos made it official. Lumsden hadn't been given medical clearance to go to training camp. They're going to go forward without him.

“Jesse confirmed he wouldn't be ready to go,” said GM Danny Maciocia, who said Eskimos medical people figured the risk when he is ready to go again “would be 30-40%, which is quite high.”

Last year the Eskimos took whatever the odds were then.

“I thought he'd be our tailback,” said Maciocia, noting while it may have looked like the Eskimos were all in with Lumsden at this time last year, the contract was actually based on number of games played, number of carries, etc., and with his early exit it worked out to be less than $100,000.

“It was a contract friendly to the club. If he had played all 18 games, he would have cashed in.”

The Eskimos arranged for a media conference call with Lumsden.

“Unfortunately, this is a side of the business I've seen before in another league in another time,” Lumsden said. “This is part of the nasty side of the business — to be released before training camp and after a draft.

“When you work so hard for something and it has been taken away from you at the snap of a finger on so many occasions, sometimes it's hard to find a positive,” he said trying to keep emotion out of his voice.

Some might say it's time for Lumsden to forget about football, buy a bobsled and proceed to get to work at becoming the next Pierre Lueders as he suggested semi-seriously he might just do back at the Olympics.

Indeed Maciocia came close to saying that Wednesday.

“I think Jesse has to take a good hard long look at this,” he said.

But the first words out of Lumsden's mouth on the conference call set the tone for what was to follow for the player who managed to only play in 30 CFL games over six seasons, carrying 285 times for 1,797 yards with 49 pass receptions for 630 yards.

“I've got to get to the gym and get ready for a season of CFL football. It's not going to deter me from working towards getting back on the field in 2010.”

He did admit it's his surgeon's opinion he's not ready for physical contact and he has no idea “where it might be or when it might start,” but swore “I'm not saying no to football. I'm not done. I'm not done yet.

“It would be easy for me to quit and walk away from football and do something else, but I love the sport and truly feel I still belong in the sport. I don't believe my time is done yet.”

No. But prime time is gone now. And there's gotta be a limit on the number of time outs you get.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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