Esks pair on mend

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

Steve Charbonneau desperately wants to put the 2004 CFL season behind him. Try as he might, he can't.

There's no escaping the hour-long drive from his home in Quebec's Eastern Townships to the University of Sherbrooke where the Edmonton Eskimos defensive tackle continues to rehab his left knee.

There's also the manual filled with exercises supplied by the Esk training staff.

Both are annoying reminders of the anterior cruciate ligament tear and surgery which put a premature end to the 31-year-old's season.

"Even before the knee there was the rib injury during training camp which caused me some back problems and that took a couple of weeks to figure out what the problem was," offered Charbonneau.

"For me, the year was a write-off. I've scratched it out of my book. I certainly hope I don't have to live through another year like that."

Charbonneau went down in Week 9 against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and went under the knife in early September.

Charbonneau should be ready to go when training camp opens May 28.

"It's been six months and I'm not far from being 100%," said Charbonneau, who plans to wear a knee brace to start this season.

Like Charbonneau, Randy Spencer has also spent the better part of his winter in rehab.

Spencer could have used some time off to rest his shoulder and possibly avoid surgery. But with Charbonneau gone for the year, the Green and Gold were awful thin along the defensive line.

The six-foot-four, 275-pound defensive lineman underwent shoulder surgery in December and spent six weeks with his right arm in a sling.

Spencer injured his shoulder in July and played the balance of the season with a wounded wing. The damage was far worse than anyone could have anticipated.

In addition to repairing muscle damage, doctors were also obliged to fix Spencer's rotator cuff.

"I had it all bandaged up every week and before every practice," admitted the right-handed tackle, who mastered eating with chopsticks in his left hand in the weeks following the surgery. I couldn't do a pushup on my own at the end of the season without pain.

"It was getting bad. It wasn't to the point where it was going to kill me. The rotator cuff was just stretched so far."

Spencer expects to be ready in time for training camp but has yet to begin any heavy lifting.

RUN OF THE MILLS?

Veteran running back Troy Mills had a lengthy chat with Esks head coach Danny Maciocia Tuesday. Although Maciocia didn't pitch the free agent a new deal, it appears the 38-year-old is still on the team's radar.

"Danny told me that he was concentrating on the draft and I was still on their board," Mills said from his home in California. "They're trying to get younger but that still doesn't rule me out. You never know what could happen."

Mills figures he can wring another season or two out of his body and is prepared to bide his time.

"They want to have some people in the system that they can have around for three or four years," Mills said. "It all depends who they want and as the season goes on who gets injured. I might just end up playing in one game again like I did in the (2002) Grey Cup."

ORDER, ORDER

The CFL released its order of selection for this year's Canadian college draft yesterday.

The Green and Gold surrendered their first- and second-round picks to Ottawa in exchange for defensive tackles Clinton Wayne and Patrick Kabongo.

Barring any other trades, Edmonton will pick fifth overall in the final four rounds of the lottery which is scheduled for April 28.

Calgary currently holds the first overall selection in the all six rounds. By virtue of previous deals, Saskatchewan, Montreal, B.C. and Toronto all have seven picks this year.

LATE HITS: Former Esk and Winnipeg Blue Bomber defensive back Harold Nash has landed on his feet. Nash asked for and was granted his release by the Green and Gold last month to become an assistant strength and conditioning coach with the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.


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