The Edmonton Eskimos were knee-deep in receivers when they opened defence of their Grey Cup title back in June. Now, it's catch as catch can.
With Derrell Mitchell nursing a sore ribcage, Jason Tucker operating on a pair of skinned-up knees, Ed Hervey possibly looking at arthroscopic knee surgery, Terry Vaughn limping around on 32-year-old pins and Brock Ralph hampered by a bruised quad, the Esks' receiving corps is scarcely a picture of health.
Frankly, head coach Tom Higgins never imagined the defending champs would be as thin as they are right now when it comes to experienced CFL receivers.
"To go from an area where we had a lot of strength to go real thin, real fast, it's amazing how that can happen," Higgins marvelled.
According to Higgins, Hervey and Ralph are doubtful for this Saturday's game versus the Toronto Argonauts.
Mitchell, however, could be ready to line up versus his former teammates.
Mitchell came down on B.C. Lions defensive back Da'Shann Austin's knee midway through the second quarter and was in extreme pain.
The veteran slotback was taken to hospital during halftime of Saturday's 36-33 loss at B.C. Place Stadium. Although X-rays revealed no breaks Mitchell is still a little tender.
"It's right up in the ribs," explained Mitchell, who caught a couple of balls during yesterday's practice but arrived at the Clarke Park field without a helmet.
"It's more like the muscles and the cartilage. Thank God there was no fracture or nothing was broken. Right now, it's just sore.
"After the game, my ribs were sore. I continue to ice it. The way I feel right now, I should be ready to go for Saturday."
Higgins is waiting for word on Hervey, who was injured when hit from behind during the Esks' loss in Toronto last month.
Having the USC product test his injured right knee in practice or a game, continued rest or arthroscopic surgery are the three options Hervey is looking at.
HERVEY'S STATUS QUESTIONABLE
While Higgins is putting a positive spin on the Hervey situation, the head coach did suggest the speedy wideout might be done for the year.
The six-year veteran was examined by Dr. David Reid yesterday morning.
"He took a shot in the back and it was just awkward how he stepped down on his knee and something caused him a great deal of discomfort," Higgins related.
"He sucked it up to come back and play but he was not playing at 100 per cent. Ed counts on his leg speed. If his knee is not right and does not allow him to get up close to being full speed, it's hard to be productive as a receiver."
SKY HASN'T FALLEN
While four of the team's starters are definite scratches or nursing injuries, the sky hasn't fallen. The upside is Higgins could add any of three NFL cuts to the roster to plug any leaks in the receiving corps.
Tony Simmons, Trevor Gaylor and Scott Cloman are all recent cuts south of the border and arrived in town last week.
Cloman and/or Simmons could be activated for Saturday's game and come on as an injury replacement or take over from October, who has been used as wide receiver since Hervey was shuffled to the injured list.
But the head coach said the likelihood of adding one or both to the active roster is about five per cent.
"It is a possibility," Higgins conceded. "But it's still a very short period of time to ask them to grasp everything you do offensively in this short period of time.
"We're just going to have to wait and see. We hope that we can go with the guys we've had from training camp, but only time will tell."
October, rookie Andrew Nowacki, third-year man Scott Robinson, Tucker and the trio of newcomers took reps with the No. 1 offence yesterday.
Outside of Tucker, not many of that group are going to strike fear into the hearts of the Toronto secondary.
"I'm getting the offence down," said Cloman, who along with Simmons and Gaylor took the practice field Monday under the watchful eyes of receivers coach Dan McKinnon.
"I'm just looking forward to getting a chance to play and contribute to this great receiving corps."
Adjusting to the Canadian game is a stretch for Cloman. But a season in the Arena Football League is helping him bridge the gap between three- and four-down football.
"It's a big adjustment but I'm kind of used to the motion," related the 28-year-old.
"It's much more exciting because it's a passing league and that's something I'm not really accustomed to.
"It's more fun than anything."