EDMONTON — Commonwealth Stadium was the site of a family reunion, of sorts, Saturday.
The entire Edmonton Eskimos roster gathered for the first time in the 2010 preseason for team medicals, although unofficially, the event was as much about catching up with returning teammates.
“Everybody hasn’t seen each other for a long time,” said veteran offensive guard Patrick Kabongo, who greeted the other players with a roar that filled the entire west concourse. “It’s been a while since we’ve seen each other, so it’s always good.”
Kabongo is one of the few Eskimos to reside in Edmonton year round, along with cornerback Jason Goss and fullbacks Graeme Bell and Mathieu Bertrand.
“We’re usually the ones who stay around,” Kabongo said. “We do (get together over the off-season) from time to time. We try to talk to each other and meet up. We do (community) events together, so it’s pretty good.”
But it doesn’t compare to having their entire football family gathered together.
“It’s good to see everybody,” said Kabongo, who singled out defensive lineman Dario Romero as the teammate he missed most.
It’s understandable considering the two usually line up across from one another in practice – that is, until Romero’s season was cut short last year due to a torn biceps with six weeks left in the regular season.
Opening day of training camp Sunday will mark Romero’s return to the practice field.
“He’s a very good player,” Kabongo said of the defensive line’s leader, who was named a West Division all-star despite the injury. “We do (push each other). I think that’s going to be important having everybody come together and push one another.”
Romero, for one, was happy to hear he was at the forefront of Kabongo’s mind.
“I’ll take the compliment,” said Romero, who is looking forward to standing toe-to-toe with his fellow 300-pounder in training camp. “We go at it. He’s a competitor, I’m a competitor. It kind of sets the tone. We’re the leaders out there and we’ve just got to set the tone.”
With his arm healthy once again, Romero is looking to pick up where he left off last year, which was shaping up to be a career season.
“It’s pretty disappointing that I got hurt,” said Romero, who will never know just how good it could have been. “I think about it, I was bummed out. I was having the best season of my career.”
While Romero could have easily called it a season and headed home to his family in Spokane, Wash., he wasn’t about to turn his back on his team.
“I asked (general manager) Danny (Maciocia) if I could stick around,” said Romero, who provided an extra set of eyes on the sidelines as well as some motivation for his teammates. “It’s not just a job, it’s my life. I care about the guys here, I care about the organization. I just wanted to be a part of it still and not just go home. I love just being around it.”
All that watching only made him hungrier for his return, and although he still had one more day to wait on Saturday, he at least had 67 other teammates around for distraction.
“I look forward to this time of year, just to get to see old faces, old friends,” Romero said. “It’s like we never even left, it’s so weird.”