Is it cows or pigskins?

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

Kevin Lefsrud is still stuck at an intriguing fork in the road.

Although it has been three months since the Edmonton Eskimos won the Grey Cup, the club's top offensive lineman still doesn't know if he's going to retire to the family farm before training camp.

"For the first time in my life," said Lefsrud, "I really don't know what I'm going to be doing."

In the simplest form, the central Alberta native will make his decision based on money and time.

MAKING IT CLEAR

In no uncertain terms, Lefsrud has made it clear he will walk away from the Green and Gold this spring if the team doesn't reopen his contract and offer him a raise.

"I have basically sacrificed my body for six years and I would like to finally get paid what I'm worth," said Lefsrud, who has been in Edmonton for three years and is in the prime of his career.

"I know what George Hudson is making (in Hamilton). I know what Bryan Chiu is making (in Montreal). I know what Sandy (Annunziata) is making (in Ottawa). I think I deserve more (than my current salary)."

The 29-year-old University of Saskatchewan product recently named his new price to the Eskimo brass. Although he's not revealing the exact number, he admits he's earning less than the reported $95,000 average salary for a Canadian lineman.

FREE-AGENT FRENZY

During the recent free-agent frenzy, some starting guards were reportedly seeking annual stipends of at least $115,000 with eastern-based teams.

"Edmonton has never been a team that likes to pay the offensive line," continued Lefsrud. "If they stay with their common belief that offensive linemen don't need to be paid, then they're going lose one of the top linemen. And if I'm not there, Ricky Ray is going to get hit a lot more."

Named the Eskimos' top offensive lineman the last two years by the local chapter of the Football Reporters of Canada, Lefsrud can play centre and guard.

He also has a remarkable championship history, winning three Grey Cups in the last four years.

"I'm not asking to get rich," he added. "But I am in a situation where I have a farm that pays me more if I was around it and I need to start thinking like a businessman more than a football player."

However, a pay raise by itself doesn't guarantee he'll return to football.

The fourth-generation farmer also needs the necessary time to play.

Unlike past years when he toiled on the farm with his dad, Lefsrud is about to take over the day-to-day on-site operation of the massive farm and cattle ranch near Viking.

"The day before a game I don't do anything, but if I'm at the farm, I am going to be doing something," he said.

"If I'm farming full time, I don't know if I'll be able to play and be able to give it my all (on the football field) if I am giving some of it to the farm. I don't want to be a liability on the football field.

"Basically, I don't want to suck."

Securing productive hired help on the farm will solve most of that issue, but Lefsrud probably won't know the extent of his help until seeding time, which is a few weeks before camp opens on May 20.

As for the Eskimos, the organization feels it can't decide the monetary issue until Lefsrud knows if he has the time to play.

"Kevin needs to solve the issue of farming before we can discuss his issues as a football player," said head coach Danny Maciocia.

If Lefsrud retires, veteran Tim Bakker and unproven Rhett McLane are the replacement candidates at centre.

Acquired from Hamilton, Bakker is also a six-year veteran, but only has one Grey Cup game under his belt.


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