Steve Charbonneau has been granted his wish.
The Edmonton Eskimos officially released their former starting defensive tackle yesterday, allowing Charbonneau to immediately shop his services elsewhere in the CFL.
"Steve expressed a desire to play in Eastern Canada in order to be closer to his family and business interests," said head coach Danny Maciocia.
Knowing the 10-year CFL veteran had no intention of returning to the club this spring, the Esks could have waited for Charbonneau's contract to expire when the free-agent market opens for business on Feb. 16.
But by being good Samaritans and releasing him yesterday, the Quebec native can now talk to teams for a full month before free agents are legally allowed.
"I put in a request to Danny just because it would be better for me to know ASAP if I'm going to keep playing," said Charbonneau from his off-season office in a Granby, Que., suburb.
"If somebody needs me out here in the East then I would rather know early than late. Then I can get back in the gym and back in playing shape."
With no desire to play in Winnipeg, Charbonneau is only willing to join Montreal, Hamilton or Toronto.
And not surprisingly, he's nervous about his football future at the age of 33.
"I know I have a couple of years left, but when it comes down to it, I am as nervous now as I was the first time I became a free agent," said the former first-round draft pick, who joined Edmonton as a free agent in 2002.
"You just never know. If the phone rings I'll be happy."
Without an agent, Charbonneau will wait by the phone for a couple of days before making calls.
Working in his favour is a Canadian birth certificate, lots of playoff experience and a relationship with Montreal GM Jim Popp and Hamilton boss Marcel Desjardins.
But working against him is his age, a history of back problems and suspect sack totals. In the past three seasons combined, Charbonneau has just eight sacks.
Robert Brown - Edmonton's other starting defensive tackle - had 12 last year.
On top of that, Charbonneau isn't too interested in taking a pay cut from his estimated 2006 salary of $100,000-$150,000.
But if he doesn't find a new football home, Charbonneau can fall back on STAK Fitness, an equipment supplier throughout Quebec, which he owns.
And his wife - former Olympic speed skater Isabelle Charest - would be thrilled if he retired.
"My wife wouldn't be sad at all ... now that we have a little kid," he said.
According to Charbonneau, Charest made the decision to leave Edmonton.
"I appreciate that she (originally) came with me to Edmonton, which is 4,000 kilometres (from home)," he stated. "She put everything on hold for me. So it's common sense that I (now) respect her choice.
"It's not because of the city or the people. It's just because of the distance ... being away from grandma and grandpa is pretty tough on us and on the kid."
FINISH LINES: According to a CFL source, the league schedule could be released next week.