Veteran NFL castoff happy for another chance

IAN BUSBY

, Last Updated: 7:00 AM ET

Saleem Rasheed is getting pencilled--not inked -- high up on the current version of the Calgary Stampeders depth chart at middle linebacker.

After not having his phone ring for nearly a year, the five-year NFL veteran is just happy the CFL club is giving him a chance at getting back into the game.

Rasheed came out of Alabama in 2001 as the first freshman to lead the team in tackles, a first-team All-SEC and academic All-SEC choice in his senior season and winner of the team's Iron Man award.

He was drafted in the third round by San Francisco, played four seasons with the 49ers and one training camp with the Houston Texans before getting cut following a knee injury.

As a five-year vet, his base salary exceeded his risk value and no one called.

So when the Stamps asked him to come and try out, he immediately jumped at it, putting a future pharmaceutical sales gig on hold.

In the past two days, the 26-year-old was just giddy to put the pads back on and continue the game he loves.

"I got some little goose-bumps, even though it was just rookie camp," Rasheed said yesterday.

"I had the feeling I was back ready to play some football, and it's a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to getting into action."

The Birmingham, Ala., native would probably still be in the NFL except that rookies playing his position cost about half as much as he does due to his 45 games of service.

Still, the business hasn't ruined Rasheed's outlook on football.

"I didn't need to revitalize my love for the game," Rasheed said.

"It's always been there since I started playing."

Heading into tomorrow's opener of training camp, Rasheed is listed at middle linebacker with Canadians Mike Labinjo and Neil Ternovatsky and fellow free-agent signing Charleston Hughes.

WE NEED A MEDIC

The Stampeders may have their first camp casualty before main camp even gets going.

First-round draft pick Jesse Newman left the morning session of rookie camp yesterday with a sprained knee, although it is not thought to be overly serious.

Newman was a four-year starter at Louisiana-Lafayette and will compete for a starting job when he's healthy.

Later, rookie Cody Kennedy was forced to leave with a similar injury.

LET'S GET PHYSICAL

Veterans report for physicals today with main camp opening tomorrow morning at 8:45 a.m. and 4 p.m. Both workouts are open to the public and there will be a free barbecue after the morning session.


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