EDMONTON - The much-maligned mercenary with the continuous quad injury hath returned.
Excuse us if we don't do the whoop dee do.
Maybe Kelly Campbell figured his double delayed re-entry would warrant a parade, but mostly he got a frosty reception from media men who couldn't get past the question about how come he's eight months and/or one week late to resume his career as an Edmonton Eskimo.
Campbell signed a contract to return to the team back in October and then failed to show up.
And then, when he finally did decide to show up it was Day 6 of training camp?!
On statistics alone, the return of Kelly Campbell should have been something to trumpet for the Eskimos.
Two years ago, when he was here, Campbell caught 54 passes for 1,223 yards and seven touchdowns despite being less than 100% healthy, dressing for 17 games but only starting in 12.
This is a guy who didn't really want to be here the first time around but came here and played well enough to get another nibble at the NFL, this time with Tampa Bay, where he got hurt again and finally ran out of options in that league.
So with nowhere else to go, he decided to once again be an Eskimo. Except whoa! He signs and then he's a no-show? Now, suddenly, on the sixth day of training camp, he's out there wearing No. 91 in white, having seen the light? But, oh-oh, apperently he hurt himself just getting here. He showed up Friday and couldn't do much more than watch. Tightness in his quad.
This is one totally twisted tale.
“Too bad he's here a week into camp,” said Ricky Ray, the quarterback who himself went away for a year to give it a go for the big bucks with the New York Jets in the NFL but came back here, signed up for the long term, and told the town he intended to spend the rest of his career as an Edmonton Eskimo.
Kelly Campbell is no Ricky Ray. The question is if he's still Kelly Campbell and if he can show it in a week.
“If he's Kelly Campbell, he's going to be a big part,” said Ray. “He has first-class speed. With him on one side and Fred Stamps on the other, that's a lot of ground to cover for a defence.”
Stamps caught 85 passes for 1,402 yards last year.
Eskimos head scout Ed Hervey wasn't jumping up and down with great glee proclaiming Campbell to be the difference maker in getting to the Grey Cup.
“We'll see what happens,” he said. “Right now he's an addition to a pretty good receiving corps.”
GM Danny Maciocia said the Eskimos weren't holding their breath on Campbell.
“It's hard to think about the guy when he's not around,” he said.
But now he is around and Maciocia says it's time to look forward, not backward, although he did admit there's concern about Campbell's quad, saying, “that's his history — here, in Tampa Bay, Miami and Minnesota.”
Maciocia says there's no doubt about the ability.
“All I know is that when he does take the field how special he can be,” he said, adding that Campbell ranks right up there with Jason Tucker, Ed Hervey, Terry Vaughn and Mookie Mitchell when he's healthy.
“When you average 22 yards a catch ...”
Maciocia was his coach two years ago. Now it's Richie Hall. And the latter was choosing his words carefully.
“If he's happy to be here then we're happy to have him.”
So what exactly did Campbell have to say for himself, finally deciding to show up at this late date?
“The business side wasn't where it was supposed to be. Things didn't get worked out. There was a lot of confusion and misunderstanding between them and my agent. There was some information I didn't get and that I didn't know about,” he said of last year.
But he refused to get into the fact that he signed a contract and had no real explanation for showing up six days late to camp, brushing off what message that sends to his teammates.
He did, however, say he's his own agent now. Clearly, not a very good one.
There was certainly no suggestion that he had any interest in any commitment longer than this season.
“One day at a time,” he said. “I don't know what's going to happen in the future. The important thing is that I'm here now. I want to put everything behind me. Football is what I love to do. I don't care for what league or what country.”
Maybe if this doesn't work out Maciocia can get him a gig in Italy.