Will Troy give it another try?

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

Troy Mills is cooling his heels in California these days, waiting for the phone to ring.

In fact, the 38-year-old running back was in pretty much the same boat about this time a couple of years ago.

That's when Edmonton Eskimos head coach Tom Higgins picked up the phone and bought a little insurance for the club's 2002 Grey Cup run.

Rather than training to stay in game shape, which is what he did after being released by Winnipeg two seasons ago, Mills just finished rehabbing the serious leg and ankle injury he suffered during the Esks first pre-season game.

"Tom called to ask how I healthy I was and if I was ready to come back up," offered Mills from his home in Sacramento. "I'm anxious. I've been working on the rehab two hours a day, three to four days a week. No matter how much you work out, the tempo is different (from a a game).

"Once you're in there, adrenaline plays a factor too. And once you catch your second wind you should be good to go."

According to Higgins, Mills is fully recovered as far as running straight ahead. But the Esks head coach isn't convinced the veteran back's lateral movement is where it should be.

"He feels he's 95 or 100 per cent," said Higgins, who said Mills has been a subject of discussion in the coaches' room lately. "But that's straight ahead. What about change of direction and other things?"

A large part of the discussion concerns finding a away to get the 11-year CFL veteran on the roster for the team's march to the Grey Cup.

To get Mills on the roster at any point between now and Grey Cup Sunday, the Esks would have to trim an import from the 40-man.

When it came time to activate Mills for the '02 Grey Cup game so he could back up the injured John Avery, return specialist Winston October drew the short straw.

"I want to have a feel for this one," admitted the head coach. "If he comes back, would he get on the roster? How would he get on the roster? What implications does it have?

"Should he be here as insurance, not necessarily to play in the semifinal? Should we be fortunate enough to win the semifinal and got into the final, is it smart to have somebody around?

"The answers to those questions are still to be determined because that's part of the discussion."

Higgins winces when he thinks about the decision to take October off the roster. But should the Esks' brain-trust opt to activate Mills, the head coach will be faced with yet another difficult decision.

And with Mike Bradley proving himself as a return man, history could repeat itself if, for whatever reason, Mills were to be added to the roster.

"I don't know what direction they want to go," Mills said. "But if they bring me back up there, they'll bring me back up there for a reason and not to sit around.

"I should know by the end of this week which direction they're going to go in and what they're going to do. We'll see what happens."

Whether the Esks bring Mills back or not, the six-foot, 212-pound utility back plans to call it a career at the end of this season.

So getting back on the field and blocking for his former running mate, Mike Pringle, down the playoff trail not to mention a chance at a second Grey Cup ring is something Mills relishes.

So does Pringle.

The fact Mills hasn't had any touches since the May 30 pre-season game at Regina's Taylor Field isn't a major concern to Pringle.

"I've been talking to Troy since he's been back in the States and he says his rehab is going good," smiled the CFL's all-time leading rusher. I know what Troy is capable of doing.

"I remember when Troy sat the majority of the '02 season and came in and did extremely well. You don't last this long in this league without knowing a thing or two about if you're ready to play.

"If he say he's ready to come back and play, the coaches should be extremely comfortable in taking his word for it. If he's able, I would love to have him out there."

LATE HITS: Defensive end Rahim Abdullah earned lineman of the week honours for his efforts in the Esks win over Winnipeg. The hulking Abdullah had a tackle, one knockdown as and an interception in the Esks' 40-34 win ... Bradley, WR Ed Hervey, FB Mathieu Bertrand, SB Terry Vaughn and DB Quincy Coleman sat out yesterday's practice ... LB/special teamer Sheldon Benoit (arthroscopic knee surgery) practised with the club for the first time since being operated on three weeks ago.


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