Giulio's gonzo!

Former bobsledder Giulio Zardo has left the Edmonton Eskimos for personal reasons. (Edmonton Sun...

Former bobsledder Giulio Zardo has left the Edmonton Eskimos for personal reasons. (Edmonton Sun File/Robert Taylor)

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:41 AM ET

Paul Jones spent nearly an hour looking for Giulio Zardo yesterday morning.

After searching in vain, the Edmonton Eskimos general manager of football operations finally waved head coach Danny Maciocia over to his golf cart.

When Jones asked where the former world-class bobsledder might be, he was told Zardo had left the club and was headed home to Montreal.

Presumably, Maciocia was more forthcoming with Jones than he was in explaining Zardo's decision to pack up and leave to the media.

"He left for personal matters and that's where that's at," Maciocia said. "I understand exactly why he had to leave and I support him fully."

Zardo and Maciocia discussed the matter yesterday morning. Zardo then cleaned out his room and locker stall at Concordia University College.

Although Maciocia declined to elaborate, he ruled out illness or a death in the family as possible reasons for Zardo's abrupt exit.

Maciocia also discounted the mild knee strain Zardo suffered during Tuesday's training camp session - or mental fatigue - as other triggers for the decision.

"It's nothing physical," said the head coach. "If he wants to talk to you about it, that's fine. But I'm not going to discuss why he left."

STATUS UNCLEAR

Messages left for Zardo went unanswered.

Zardo's status with the club is unclear. Maciocia can either suspend or release the Montreal native, although suspending Zardo is Maciocia's preference at this point.

"If we release him, somebody else can pick him up," Maciocia pointed out.

On a day when there were more questions than answers, Zardo's long-term future with the club is also uncertain.

"I don't know if he'll return or not," Maciocia said. "He's got to take care of a few things. At that point, he's got my number and he knows where he can reach me. We'll find out as we go along if he wants to return or not."

Zardo served as Pierre Lueders' brakeman until suspended by Bobsled Canada following an alleged scuffle with the national team coach before Christmas. At the time, Lueders hit out at Zardo's decision to leave his sport for the CFL, calling it "a waste."

NEVER DISAPPOINTED

"I can never be disappointed in Giulio Zardo," said Maciocia. "I worked as hard for him as I worked for anybody else. You cant' keep 'em all. At some point in time I'm probably going to have to let go a few others. It's just the reality of the business and the position that I occupy."

While Maciocia's words could easily lead one to conclude Zardo had been released, the head coach insists that's not the case.

Although the 24-year-old Zardo was a man without a position, Maciocia had every intention of utilizing the six-foot-three, 242-pound former St. Leonard junior in Edmonton's first pre-season game.

"People would have had their hands full trying to block Giulio Zardo," Maciocia said. "He is a load. That's one thing I don't know if we're going to get a chance to see. His chances were as good as anyone else here to make this ball club."

Zardo last played football at the CEGEP level in Lennoxville, Quebec, prior to joining the bob team in 2001. According to Maciocia, the fact Zardo never played a down of college football did not leave the one-time linebacker at a competitive disadvantage at camp.

"The gap was at the position," said Maciocia, who has eight linebackers in camp and pencilled Zardo in to compete for a job at the defensive end position.

"As far as being a special teams player, there was absolutely no gap. I think he can still play."


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