Brace comes off Tucker

JASON HILLS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

It may seem like a small step, but it's a major leap forward in Jason Tucker's recovery process.

After breaking his neck this season in a July game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the 32-year-old Edmonton Eskimos wide receiver finally got his neck brace off.

"It came off (Wednesday) and man, am I glad to have it off. I can finally sleep good," said Tucker with a smile.

"I haven't had a good sleep in a while. Wearing that neck brace, you just can't get comfortable. You get used to it, but you just can't sleep good."

During the July 25 game, Tucker caught a short pass and was hit hard by a helmet-to-helmet hit from Ticats defender Jykine Bradley. The hit fractured and dislocated the C6 and C7 vertebrae in his neck.

Remarkably just one week later he walked into the Eskimos dressing room and was an act of inspiration for the rest of the season as he walked along the sidelines.

"It was a good thing to be here around the fellas. They really helped me deal with it. I am a positive and upbeat person; there was no reason for me to be down. Everything happens for a reason," said Tucker.

Tucker received news this week that his healing process is coming along as planned. Whether that means he can strap on the helmet and pads again and start catching passes from Ricky Ray is a whole other matter.

"Playing football is the furthest thing from my mind right now. I just want to go home, relax, enjoy life as it is," said Tucker.

"They told me everything is healing good and now I can start my rehab and just take this day by day."

The former Dallas Cowboy is set to return home to his ranch in Texas to spend time with his family and begin to do the everyday things in his life that he used to do. The football field and his ranch act as his sanctuaries.

"Just to be able to get home back on my ranch, play some golf, do a little hunting - I'll be able to do a lot of stuff that I haven't been able to do for a long time when I get home," said Tucker.

"You can crumble or you can get stronger, and this whole experience has made me stronger.

"It's made me realize I can deal with anything, and there is nothing I can't handle."

If playing football isn't in the future for Tucker, could coaching become his new profession? Eskimos receivers coach Mike Kelly's name has been linked to potentially becoming the new head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers after the recent firing of Doug Berry.

"Of course I think I can still play. There is nothing wrong with me. It's just my neck - my body is fine, I just haven't used it in a while," said Tucker who hasn't ruled out a comeback.

"I've always said that when I am done playing, that I would like to take the vast knowledge that I've learned from the many coaches I've had and try and give it to someone else.

"Right now, I am just not at that point where I am thinking about football. I just want to fully recover and be me again."


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