Esks sign Cheatwood

Eskimos' defensive end Tim Cheatwood gestures during team practice on Tuesday. (Sun Media/Darryl...

Eskimos' defensive end Tim Cheatwood gestures during team practice on Tuesday. (Sun Media/Darryl Dyck)

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:49 AM ET

Tim Cheatwood has passed the first test.

Now the Edmonton Eskimos want him to pass a much tougher test.

After suffering a major knee injury last September with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the 28-year-old import defensive end is trying to restart his football career.

Pushed through a series of medical tests early yesterday morning, the Esks have signed the former CFL standout to a contract.

But the question remains: can he perform at a high level in real games down the stretch with the Esks in a battle to make the playoffs?

"I have researched it the last month or so," said Eskimo head coach Danny Maciocia.

"The big question with Tim was the ACL surgery that he went through last year to see if it was totally rehabbed.

"I made a few phone calls - spoke to some people in Montreal, their athletic therapist - and he is good to go."

With Adam Braidwood, Chuck Alston and Kenny Hollis dealing with injuries, there is a chance Cheatwood could make his Eskimo debut on Sunday in Montreal. (11 a.m. MT, TSN/CHED).

"If he has three good days of practice we will play him," said Maciocia.

It didn't take long - a matter of hours after the transaction was announced before practice yesterday - for critics to suggest the signing smells of desperation.

Under Maciocia's watch, the Esks have also recycled CFL vets like Joe Montford and Rahim Abdullah at defensive end. Both failed - in high-profile fashion.

Cheatwood believes he's been ready to play since mid-July but didn't get the chance because he was on Montreal's nine-game injury list.

"I am ready to play - physically and mentally," said Cheatwood.

"I am ready to get out there and show everybody what I can do."

In his prime, Cheatwood was a demon on the defensive line.

He had 41 sacks over parts of five seasons in Hamilton (2002-2006) and was the club's Most Outstanding Player nominee in 2003.

He was also an East Division all-star in 2003 and 2004.

The fire is still alive within the six-foot-four, 258-pound Ohio native.

"I am not here to just take up space and make a play every now and then," said Cheatwood.

"If I come back, I want to come back as the same old Tim Cheatwood."

While the critics will continue to moan, Maciocia is ready with ammunition.

"We have had players like Mike Pringle and Troy Mills who have had knee surgeries in their early to mid-30s and have been able to come back the following year and Tim is all of 28 years old," explained Maciocia.

"Hopefully he can go out there and be the Tim Cheatwood that we saw in Hamilton when he was a force to be reckoned with every single time he lined up against us."

That is what Montreal was hoping for when they signed him earlier this year.But Cheatwood didn't play a single game for the Als and was recently released.

"They gave me an ultimatum: either you take and sign this or this happens," said Cheatwood of his dealings in Montreal after his nine-game injury stint was over.

"You take a pay cut or go home."

Cheatwood went home.

Now he's hoping Edmonton will be his new long-term home.


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