'Old' Tucker back

CON GRIWKOWSKY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:56 AM ET

He's baaack!

At least, Jason Tucker's back is good enough for the Esks go-to receiver to get back into the training-camp lineup.

"It feels good," said Tucker. "It feels like I haven't missed a beat. It felt good to get back there and get 'er going. I haven't been practising a whole lot, so you always feel good."

He looked comfortable going through his paces, running his patterns and making all the catches look easy.

"I just wanted to know I could go through everything and not think about it," said Tucker.

"And, that's the way I felt. I was just going out there, being the old me."

Tucker's training-camp woes were just an extension of a frustrating 2007 campaign.

Tucker missed four mid-season games with a knee problem and sat out the final game of the regular season as the Esks missed the playoffs for the second straight year.

A guaranteed 1,000-yard man and CFL all-star the previous three seasons, Tucker's injury woes cost him a chance to extend the streak.

So, it was understandable that his frustration was compounded when he had to sit out most of training camp as he sorted out the cause of his back problems.

"I was real frustrated last year," said Tucker, the CFL's top yardage producer in 2005. "It was the first time being hurt to that extent in my career, so it was hard watching from the side.

"Even when I got back in, I was limited to what I could do."

This training camp, Tucker couldn't even get out of the gate.

Tucker discovered he had a pair of bulging discs. He underwent chiropractic and acupuncture treatment to correct the problem.

"Once I got the MRI on that it was 'oh, OK, that's what caused the back problems,' " said Tucker.

"I just went back and got a lot of rehab done on it and I'm feeling a lot better."

Tucker expects to see some limited action when the Esks host Saskatchewan Thursday night.

Having gone through what he's gone through, nobody can question his motivation to get back on top of his game and regain his status as one of the CFL's top wideouts since he broke into the league and earned his first CFL all-star selection in 2002.

"I'm real motivated," said Tucker. "Last year, I was so frustrated I couldn't be me, I couldn't be myself. You know, the guy making all the spectacular catches, all the deep catches. It frustrated me.

"I had it in my mind all off-season that I was going to train extra-hard ... harder than I normally train to get ready for this career."

Nobody is questioning Tucker's ability and it's a chance for the Ricky Ray to Jason Tucker combo to try to recapture some of the magic they've had in the past.

"It's always good to get back and get a rhythm back with the quarterbacks," said Tucker. "It's like second-nature once you get in the games."

Esks head coach Danny Maciocia is glad to have Tucker back.

"It was nice to see him out here," said Maciocia. "It seems like he's back. I'm excited. He's our go-to guy. He's got a great relationship with Ricky Ray. It's huge to have him back.

"I'm also excited about some of our younger guys, because with him in the lineup, it'll create some space for him, too."


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