Danny Maciocia is loyal to a fault. And that loyalty could be severely tested in the upcoming weeks. The rookie Edmonton Eskimos head coach has a number of personnel decisions to make. And the biggest of the bunch will impact his old friend Mike Pringle.
Having passed George Reed on the CFL's all-time rushing list, the 37-year-old Pringle now owns virtually every CFL rushing record in the book.
Although Pringle's retirement was generally regarded as a little better than even money bet when the Esks cleaned out their lockers in November, the future Hall of Famer hanging up his cleats may not be a lead-pipe cinch.
Asked if he is entertaining thoughts of life after football or playing yet another season, the veteran running back was non-committal earlier this week.
"It's January, it's still early," said Pringle, who had 259 carries for 1,141 yards and eight touchdowns last season, his 13th in the CFL.
His ninth 1,000-plus season ran his career rushing total to 16,425 yard.
Pringle, who signed with the Green and Gold two years ago, is one of nine Edmonton players currently destined for free agency next month.
However, before Pringle makes any decision regarding his future, he will have a heart-to-heart chat with Maciocia - the man who coached the bull-necked back in Montreal for the better part of seven seasons.
"I'm going to talk to Danny before too long and let him know what I'm thinking," said Pringle from his home outside Memphis, Tennessee. "He called me before they made the official announcement that he got the coaching job and we talked for a while.
"He said there was no hurry on their part. But I won't keep them in limbo for a long time. I'll tell them what I want to do as soon as possible."
Between real-estate deals aimed at bolstering his rental property holdings, Pringle continues to workout with training partner and Ottawa Renegades defensive back Gerald Vaughn.
At five foot eight and 202 pounds, Pringle looks like he's chiseled from granite.
Despite being nearer the end of his career than the beginning, he's in top physical condition and clearly intends to stay in fighting trim until he arrives at a decision regarding his future.
Pringle's running mate, Troy Mills, is coming off a pre-season ankle injury which required surgery and landed him on the sidelines for all of the 2004 campaign.
The 39-year-old Mills figures he's got at least one good year left and would relish blocking for Pringle again as well as carrying the ball occasionally.
According to Mills, he and Pringle discussed that possibility before the pair went their separate ways at the end of the season.
"He was more interested in what I was going to do," offered Mills, who is also eligible for free agency. "(Pringle) was talking about wanting to come back for another year. And if he did, he wanted me to come back also."
On the surface, that's nothing more than hearsay.
But if Pringle wants to play another year, Maciocia is going to find himself in the unenviable position of selling the notion of a pair of veteran running backs to the ticket-buying public or telling Pringle it's all over.
"At the end of the day we will do what's best for the Edmonton Eskimos," said Maciocia.
"I think it's also extremely important for a guy like Mike to give him a phone call and ask him where he's at. Once you find out what he wants to do you can sit down and evaluate the situation.
"You have to ask yourself, 'Can we win with these people in our lineup when we open up in 2005?' That's how you come to a decision."