Mike's movin' up

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 2:48 PM ET

Mike Bradley is moving in the right direction - on and off the field.

After major knee surgery in the off-season and a very light practice routine to start training camp, Bradley has been moved into full-contact drills.

The extremely valuable non-import special teams demon and backup running back is back practising with the first-string punt team and banging bodies out of the backfield with the offence.

"(The right knee) feels fine. There is a little bit of tenderness in it, but nothing to be concerned about - that's for sure," said Bradley after his second consecutive day of real practices.

That is great news for Edmonton Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia, who had to live without Bradley for the final six games last year after he ripped apart an ACL and damaged an MCL at Rogers Centre in Toronto on Thanksgiving Day.

"He is extremely important because he can do a lot of things," said Maciocia.

"He has been a leader on our (special) teams for years and is clearly a guy you don't want to go up against. And let's not forget that we are a year removed from when we lost our starting tailback to an injury (in Winnipeg) and he stepped in and had a 60-yard run for a TD."

The only minor problem Bradley has to solve is getting used to the brace he must wear.

"That takes a little bit of time," said Maciocia.

"He is constantly clutching at (the brace), twisting it and turning it. But when you watch him run, you don't even realize that he has a brace. He hasn't lost a step."

And Bradley's rehabbed right leg is going to get an extra workout in the next couple of weeks because he's moving off the field.

Although it sounds somewhat strange, Bradley is going to spend the season living in the basement of Jason Maas's home in Sherwood Park.

"Maas and I developed a pretty good relationship last year. We hunted together and did other things," said Bradley. And he wanted to put someone in his house to cover some bills (while he's playing in Hamilton)."

"Last year I lived downtown in an apartment building.

"So it is nice to have a yard to bring my dog along with me - it will be more like the comforts of home."

STILL MISSING

While Bradley is back in the fold, the Eskimos are still missing linebacker A.J. Gass.

While he's talking on the phone with some members of the organization, Gass is still in the United States dealing with the death of a close family member and has no firm timetable for his return.

But Maciocia still isn't panicking.

"A.J. has to take care of business ...and he has to do it right," he said. "Once he's done - it could be one week, two weeks, a month - he can come back and we will welcome him with open arms.

"That day will happen to me (when I lose a close family member) and I hope no one is going to tell me how long I need to take in order to take care of my family business back home."

Maciocia believes Gass can still open the season at starting middle linebacker if he arrives in camp just one week before the June 17 opener in Calgary.


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