A big help for Esks D line

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:40 AM ET

TORONTO -- Steve Charbonneau is a perfect three-for-three this week.

The Edmonton Eskimo defensive lineman was able to participate in specific drills during the three practice sessions since the team's loss in Hamilton last weekend, which gave head coach Danny Maciocia the green light to bring him back on the roster for the first time in three weeks after suffering back spasms.

"I'm very happy," said Maciocia yesterday while unveiling his lineup card for this weekend.

"He understands his responsibilities, plays the run pretty good and he's one of the so-called leaders with our defensive line because of what he brings on the field but also off the field."

Charbonneau will start at defensive tackle tomorrow against the Argos at Toronto's Rogers Centre after missing three games because of a strange but painful incident at Taylor Field.

INNOCENT MOVE

The mammoth 290-pound Canadian lineman had to the leave the field in Regina during warm-up on Sept. 18 after an innocent move.

"It is a move I have done for nine years (in warm-up)," recalled Charbonneau.

"Before games we always do a little one-on-one with the offensive line, and I went to do a club move and the way I moved it was apparently too much for my back.

"We weren't even going 60 per cent and I felt (the back spasms) right away."

Although he was having difficulty breathing with almost every step, Charbonneau was able to get off the Taylor Field turf and into the locker-room, where he hit the floor.

Unfortunately for his teammates, he didn't get off the floor to play that afternoon against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

"I was on the floor and I was locked up. I couldn't move," he remembered.

"It's very awkward, very painful; every little moment you feel a shooting pain in your back.

"You can't do anything whether it's walking or putting your socks on."

It was bad timing, to say the least.

The Eskimos also lost linemen Rashad Jeanty and Cedric Scott for stages of that game, as both were hurt in the first quarter.

But bad timing isn't something new to Charbonneau.

The 32-year-old Quebec native was in the wrong place at the wrong time last August in Winnipeg.

"I was pursuing the running back and I got hit at a weird angle," he explained. "I tried to spin out of the block, and my foot was pretty much glued to the ground with that artificial turf."

The former first-round pick in the CFL draft suffered a torn ACL and LCL in one knee and had season-ending surgery.

PLAYED JUST 10 OF LAST 24 GAMES

With that injury and his recent back spasms, Charbonneau has played just 10 of Edmonton's last 24 regular-season games.

But his timing couldn't be better this week, with Randy Spencer's pegs finally packing it in.

The fellow non-import tackle, who replaced Charbonneau last month, has a torn calf muscle in both legs, meaning he had to stay home in Edmonton while the team flew to Toronto yesterday.

Spencer joked before the team left that he had "switched off" the starting position and "switched off the pain" with Charbonneau.

But like almost every aspect of football, there is no guarantee Charbonneau's back will stand the test tomorrow in the Eskimos' most important game of the season to date.

Charbonneau doesn't seem the slightest bit concerned about the possibility of the injury reoccurring, but he didn't wear pads to practice this week, meaning tomorrow will be his first football contact since the injury.


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