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ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

The timing of his return could've been better, but that's the only concern Sandy Annunziata had about the trade that landed him back with the Edmonton Eskimos.

After hoisting a Grey Cup with the Toronto Argonauts last season and with his wife expecting in August, the native of Fort Erie, Ont., wasn't overjoyed about the April 22 trade that landed him in Edmonton, but now that he's back where his CFL career began in 1995, it's all good.

The Esks can certainly use Annunziata's talents on an offensive line that's being rebuilt, and if wife Elissa delivers the couple's third child the second week of August as expected, it'll come during a bye week.

7 1/2 MONTHS PREGNANT

Baby, it's all about timing.

"Initially, the only reservation I had is that the timing couldn't have been worse," he said. "My wife is 7 1/2 months pregnant, so the timing is bad for her, but she's been great through this whole thing.

"The Eskimos have always been very supportive in this kind of situation. They're the first organization to tell you family comes first, so I don't foresee any problem when the due date comes."

Annunziata, 35, looked right at home as he waded into a buzzing throng of autograph seekers at the Esks' annual fan day on Sunday, and he's looked equally comfortable back through the first week of training camp.

The Sandman, entering his 10th CFL campaign, hasn't lost much sleep over the move back to Edmonton now that he's settled in.

"You know right off the bat that when you become an Eskimo, there's a rich tradition," said Annunziata, who played seven games with the Esks in 1995 after signing as a free agent out of Western Ontario.

"Any time you get to become an Eskimo, it's a great situation. The coaches and the front office always try to put you in a position to succeed."

As a non-import who can play centre, guard or tackle, where he's likely to start the season, the six-foot-three, 275-pound Annunziata will be a handy guy for Danny Maciocia to have around.

"He's won a Grey Cup. He's a two-time CFL all-star," the Esks head coach said. "He brings a lot of experience and he also understands the organization a little bit. This was his first stop.

"If you're trying to keep the so-called ratio intact by staying all-Canadian, you have to surround yourself with quality Canadians. That's the case with Sandy."

Annunziata has 117 CFL games on his resume, including 66 with Toronto over the past four seasons, so he brings plenty of experience to an offensive line that's got some holes to fill because of retirements and trades.

"It's hard to find guys who can step in and play," said Bruce Beaton, who is back on the O-line after a season of retirement.

"There's a lot to learn, but Sandy's done a great job of handling it and of handling the family situation. One thing about Sandy, he's even-keeled. He's an easy-going, charismatic guy who fits right in wherever he goes."

15-DAY WINDOW

The Esks play the B.C. Lions in Vancouver Aug. 5, then are off until they host Toronto Aug. 20. Annunziata's hoping that 15-day window provides a happy balance between football and family.

"You look at the talent this team has recruited and you know this organization wants to win," Annunziata said. "As a football player, that's all you can ask for. You can't ask for anything better."


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